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.

2 thoughts on “but the lonely are such delicate things (part 4)

  1. “Loneliness is solitude with a problem.” That is a hell of a line. And then you go and spin it into a hell of a post.

  2. “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.” <– this

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