password-protected posts

I wasn’t anticipating that people would be curious about my most recent password-protected posts. Protected posts are not something I’m planning to do permanently, it’s just that there were a few things I wanted to talk about recently but didn’t want everyone to see. Maybe this was a weird and off-putting way to post them, but I honestly didn’t think anyone I don’t know would be interested, which I guess is indicative of where my self-esteem is these days.

If you are a longtime reader of this site or a person I know from the internet and you’d like to read the posts, you can email me at alison at this domain and I’ll send you the passwords. Thanks!

but the lonely are such delicate things (part 4)

(part 1, password carbots)
(part 2, password stobrac)
(part 3, password carbots)


MUSIC CUE: “Love Lost” by Temper Trap, very softly at first, then gradually louder as the scene progresses. [or is this too on the nose? consult with music supervisor later]

ALISON, in a wool hat and jacket, sits in a plastic chair on her shitty patio and types at her computer. She takes a pensive sip of coffee, then resumes typing.


BRIAN, sitting on his sofa reading a book, hears his phone beep and checks it to see a text from ALISON. The text has a link in it. He reads the text, taps the link to open it and begins to read.



BRIAN continues to read the letter, which we hear in ALISON’S voiceover. He takes off his glasses and wipes tears from his eyes. He finishes reading the letter, stands up and gets his car keys.


[VOICEOVER OF BEAUTIFUL LETTER CONTINUES] ALISON closes her laptop, goes back inside her shitty [not shitty in the dirty or unsafe sense, just shitty in the yellow walls, not enough windows, poor layout sense] apartment, pets MOKI on the head, and lies down on the sofa to read. It begins to rain.


[VOICEOVER OF BEAUTIFUL LETTER CONTINUES] BRIAN’S car pulls up outside ALISON’S house. He jumps out of his car, runs to her door and knocks.


[VOICEOVER OF BEAUTIFUL LETTER FINISHES, MUSIC SWELLS] Alison hears the knock on the door. She gets up and opens the curtain to see BRIAN standing on her doorstep, rain (or tears?) streaming down his face. Surprised, she opens the door and lets him in. They embrace.


This would never happen in real life. I know that. One flaw in it is that if you showed up on my doorstep I would have a few questions for you before I let things get all embrace-y. No matter what the beautiful letter said, you’d still have to explain some things to me about your thought process.

The other flaw is that we talked a lot about writing (you don’t write, but you wish you could), but you never, ever wanted to see any of mine. I mentioned this once. “You’re talking about my writing as if it’s any good, but you’ve never read it. I might really suck for all you know.”

“Well, you told me that other people like your writing, so I assume it’s good.”

It hurt to hear you say that. I have had boyfriends who read my writing, and I’ve had those who didn’t, and the latter always bothered me. Why would a person who loves me not care enough about one of my creative endeavors to want to see it? One guy said, “I’d rather have you talk to me about your thoughts and feelings, not read them in your writing.” But reading and talking are not the same.

I know that you weren’t, aren’t, and never will be my boyfriend or a person who loves me. But when someone you are falling in love with declines your oblique offer to share something like that with them, it hurts no matter what. So how could I know if any letter I wrote you would affect you at all? You might think I really suck for all I know.

And anyway, Life Is Not Like A Poorly Formatted Screenplay, and I Told You I Wasn’t Going To Contact You So I Need To Stick To That, and I Don’t Want To Have To Talk Someone Into Wanting Me, and other stories.

You and I have talked a lot about loneliness. We talked about the nature and quality of loneliness on our first (only, I guess) date. I’d asked you what your favorite book was, and you said it was Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. You mentioned a quote from it that you really liked about loneliness. I went home and bought the book immediately and found it:

I have been trying, for some time now, to find dignity in my loneliness. I have been finding this hard to do. It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one’s solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem.

(Reading Bluets, by the way, was when I knew I would fall for you.)

When we talked about loneliness on that date, it was in the context of OkCupid. You said you didn’t know anyone in St. Louis besides your sister and her family, and though you weren’t sure about your interest in long-term dating, you were lonely and you needed to get out of your house and meet people. You found joining clubs and doing group activities difficult, so you joined OkCupid because it felt easier somehow.

“I find it easier, too,” I said. “It has a nakedly transactional aspect to it that makes things more straightforward. With group activities you have to find people you like in the group and then try to bridge the gap between the group activity and becoming actual friends. Meeting someone from OkCupid is more like, we’re both here to see if we like each other and maybe want to hang out more. It’s refreshing.”

I didn’t remember why I cried on that date, but now I do. It was when I told you that sometimes I went on OkCupid dates just to have someone to fucking talk to.

I have been lonely a lot of times in my life. Cripplingly, breathtakingly lonely, for lengthy periods of time, in relationships and out of them. I told you once that I thought the loneliness inside a relationship was much worse than the loneliness outside of one. If I waited the rest of my life and never found the perfect person for me, a person who saw me in all my intensity and stubbornness and sadness and loudness and oddity and wanted me not in spite of these things but because of them, I’d rather be alone-lonely than settle and be relationship-lonely ever again.

You disagreed.

Two things occur to me now.

  1. If it’s true that you’d rather settle for someone not quite right than be alone, you must have thought I was really not right.
  2. You saw me in at least some of my “intensity and stubbornness and sadness and loudness and oddity” and didn’t want me, so technically you’re not right for me either.

Someday soon this will be a consolation to me.

It’s true that loneliness is solitude with a problem. Solitude is you floating alone on a ship in the ocean. Loneliness is you floundering in the ocean surrounded by debris from the ship, grasping for any piece of it you can whether it will keep you afloat or not.

We don’t always know what we’re grasping at when we’re lonely. During my loneliest times I’ve reached for some of the weakest, most terrible things, hoping that they’ll hold me afloat long enough to make me okay, but they never do. They only make me sink faster.

The truth is that we can’t count on just one or two of those little pieces of debris to make us complete. We have to rebuild the whole ship.

One of the last texts I sent to you was about a quote from a Shins song we’d been trying to remember, but neither of us could think of it. I looked it up later and sent it to you. “…but the lonely are such delicate things.”

“Solitude,” you wrote back. “I’m trying to turn my loneliness into solitude a la Maggie Nelson.”

Well, sure.

As silly as it may sound, the best way I’ve found to turn my loneliness into solitude is to think of myself not as an entity trapped alone inside my body trapped alone inside my shitty apartment, but as a separate person I’m hanging out with and caring for. What are the best things I can do with/for myself today? Thinking of my aloneness that way keeps me from wallowing, keeps me moving around and going for walks and making things and writing and eating food that’s good for me and trying to make friends. It helps me rebuild my ship.

It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I am so sure that I’d be happy if you’d wanted me, or if someone else wanted me, that it seems like I’ll never be happy otherwise. But I can’t let another person be my permanent life raft like that, particularly not someone who is too busy floundering around and grasping at their own debris to notice me.

I’m starting to be glad I let you go.

it’s a silly time to learn to swim when you start to drown (part 3)

(part 1, password carbots)
(part 2, password stobrac)

I think I might have loved you.


I’ve shared this information with two other people since I realized it, and both times it was met with an understandably long pause. But I’ll explain.

At dinner the other night, we were in the middle of a conversation when it was time to order food. “Oh, but what was I talking about?” I said before looking at the menu. “I don’t want to forget!”

“We’re several levels deep at this point,” you said, “but I remember where we were.”

Here is what we talked about at dinner:

  • the rare occurrence of bands who play good music and also have clearly stated, often profound lyrics
  • different types of gendered insults
  • is everyone that seems dead on the inside actually dead on the inside or do they have a rich inner life?
  • whether or not it can be assumed that everyone has at least some semblance of a rich inner life
  • if everyone has a rich inner life, are weird people weird because they keep their inner lives a bit closer to the outside than other people?
  • do non-weird people feel like weird people are braver and more honest than they are, or stupider?
  • what combination of thoughts and actions make a person weird
  • how the quality of one’s thoughts is affected by the presence or absence of music and/or different types of music
  • if a person is going to deliberately spend a quantity of time alone inside their own head, should they have an agenda or goal or a decision to make, or should they just step back and let their thoughts get weird and dark?

This is representative of every conversation we’ve ever had, including the one we had on our very first OkCupid date. Are your conversations with most other people like this? Mine aren’t. I barely need two hands to count the number of people I can talk to like that. I know you’re on OkCupid for the same reasons I am: maybe or maybe not to date, but definitely to go out, meet people and have someone to talk to. But I’d be surprised if your other OkCupid dates go like ours did.

I’ve said before that talking is how I feel close to people, which is true. But the kind of talking we did–the several levels deep, the philosophical, the rambling, weird and dark–is how I fall for people.

I fall sort of easily these days. You’re not the only guy I’ve cried over this year. There was Trey, the guy I met in July who was the first guy from OkCupid I actually liked. We talked for hours on our first date, texted nearly nonstop for an entire week (though we switched to email when we had too much to say), and then when we went out for a second time he said, “I’m not really feeling a connection here, so I’m gonna go,” and he got out of my car, slammed the door and was gone. There was the friend I briefly developed feelings for at the beginning of the year, which I think was just a way to avoid dealing with the end of my six-year relationship and my impending move to St. Louis.

But this wasn’t like that. Well, okay, it was a little like that. I am, as I said, thinking about you in part to avoid thinking about some of the larger issues I’m facing. But it doesn’t make my feelings for you any less real. It can be true that I used you as a distraction at the same time it can be true that I might have loved you. Both things can be true.

At the bar after dinner (we always go to the bar after dinner), we talked about traveling alone. Is it over-romanticized? Is it bad for us during the travel itself but good for us afterward? Does traveling with another person change or limit the way we look at the things we do and see? You told me about a trip you took to Ireland two months ago. Before you left, you thought you would make the trip be a good thing for you; you’d do some thinking and writing and some standing there pensively observing various majestic vistas and Learning Things About Yourself.

But you didn’t do that. You moped around Ireland and got drunk in bars. You were, as you said, the same person you were in St. Louis. You were just somewhere else.

I had finished my cider, you’d finished your beer. I’d had two drinks at dinner and was already sort of tipsy, so I didn’t want to drink anymore, and we couldn’t just sit there. There was nothing else for me to do.

“So, um. I can’t hang out with you anymore, at least not for awhile,” I said. “Do you know why?”

“No,” you said, giving me a blank look. And then I told you why.

I couldn’t look at you. You are so good at eye contact. You are always looking at me when I talk. You look at me when you talk. Sometimes you even look at me when neither of us is saying anything. I haven’t felt so seen by another person in a long time.

But this time I couldn’t meet your eyes. We were sitting in the exact same chairs I’d sat in with a bad OkCupid date from July, a guy who never asked me any questions about myself, took a sip of my drink without asking, and then invited me back to his place. How long ago it felt.

I leaned toward you, elbows on my knees, chin in hand, eyes on the dusty floor next to your chair, and told you that I was falling for you, and it hurt too much to be around you anymore. I told you that I was sorry, that I’d tried so hard to be your friend, that I really wanted to be your friend, but it was hurting my pride and my self-esteem and my heart to continue. I told you that I’d considered just cutting off all contact with you, but that I was too honest, we were too honest, for me to do that. You deserved to know the truth.

A small part of me thought that you’d tell me you were falling for me too. A smaller part thought you’d say you were falling for me too but that didn’t change the fact that you couldn’t date anyone right now. But no part of me knew you would tell me that when you came back from Ireland two months ago, your girlfriend of two years had cut off all contact with you. Her name was Allison.

I didn’t know what to say to that. There wasn’t anything to say, really. We got up and left the bar and got in your car.

You told me you were impressed that I’d been straight with you, and impressed that I’d spent an entire evening with you knowing that I was going to have to say what I’d said.

“I really like hanging out with you,” I said. “Maybe it was selfish of me to do that.”

“I like hanging out with you, too,” he said. “It’s sad because I really thought we had a connection.”

“We do,” I said. “And that’s the problem.” I was starting to cry, and I think you did too. “If some time goes by and I decide I’m okay hanging out with you again, would you welcome hearing from me?”

“Absolutely,” you said.

You pulled up in front of my house. “I’m sorry again,” I said.

“Don’t apologize. You don’t have anything to be sorry for.” You got out of the car and hugged me, and I turned and ran into my house before you could see me starting to sob.

We do have a connection. We’re both kind of fucked up and lonely in the same way right now. But the idea of two fucked-up people comforting and healing each other is a fiction.

When I was arrested for my DWI, my boyfriend Andy who was in the car with me was also arrested for public intoxication. My arresting officer asked me what prescription medications I took on a regular basis, and when I told him, he said, “You and your boyfriend have no business drinking, given all the meds you both take!” I was taking my usual anti-depressants and he was taking Lithium, an anti-anxiety medication and Provigil.

A year or so later, Andy and I had broken up but were in that terrible purgatory of still acting like we were a couple. We were drunk (again) at my apartment one night and got in a huge fight, and he went to sleep on the couch. “You’re sick!” he said to me as I went into the bedroom. “Something’s wrong with you and you need HELP!”

After we finally broke up for the last time, he went off his medication, got kicked out of his band and fathered a child with his South Dakota ex-girlfriend. He called me once, five years after we’d broken up, and I barely understood a word he said. We had been two broken people who came together and made each other so much worse because of it.

Andy wasn’t incorrect about me, though. Something is wrong with me, Brian. When Trey (a person I had only met twice) got out of my car and slammed the door, I was really upset. I felt like he was the only person who was ever going to want me, and now suddenly he didn’t. I had started driving home but I had to pull the car over because I was crying. We’d been at a street festival where I’d bought a book that Trey had said was his favorite, and when I started the car again, I threw the book out the window into the street.

Why do I feel like whichever person I’m into at any given time is the only one for me? Whenever someone rejects me, my brain tells me that TREY WAS THE ONLY ONE FOR YOU BUT YOU ARE UNLOVABLE AND NOW I’LL YOU’LL BE ALONE FOREVER. It says, THERE IS NO ONE ELSE LIKE TREY IN THE UNIVERSE. HE WAS THE PERFECT ONE AND NOW HE IS GONE.

I know this isn’t true. It can’t be true, because now my brain is telling me the exact same things with your name in place of his. But it’s worse this time, because all the time I spent talking with Trey I was at home, staring at my phone, reading what he texted me and then typing back. And then he ditched me, coldly, unceremoniously, in a manner that didn’t match with the amount of time we’d spent talking or the very personal things we’d told each other.

All the time I spent with you was in person, walking with you or sitting across from you at a table. Hearing you laugh. Watching your expressions change as I talked and you listened. Seeing how your face scrunched up a little as you searched for the perfect word to use to describe something.

And when I told you I couldn’t be your friend anymore, you weren’t cold. You weren’t rude. You let me feel my feelings and say what I had to say without making any of it about you. You teared up a bit, but didn’t expect me to console you. You gave me no reason to hate you, or to be even a little angry with you.

The fact that I didn’t know you that well, the fact that two broken people aren’t good for each other, the fact that you aren’t the only person in the universe, the fact that I did the right thing and now I can free myself up to heal and move on and then maybe find someone who truly sees my value–none of these facts are any consolation, and none of them are ridding me of the thought that really, I might have loved you.

Can all those things be true at the same time?