This is about the language of loneliness. A semiotics of ache. This is the language of a vicious winter.
I cannot write: my words have all been stolen by the lyrics of obsolete songs. I have tried to use a body tongue, but it too moves to a rhythm I cannot call my own. So instead I turn the music up loud and let it speak to me.
I always thought I would summon my lovers with song—some overly poetic idea of fate that would come to an unexpected crux in a shopping line, or a dark movie hall, or at the school darkroom, hunched over a light-table examining the scratched negatives of friends now gone.
I always thought I would sing a line from a song and my future lover would be the one who completed the next line. It hasn’t yet happened, nor do I think it ever will. But this does not stop me from speaking out a line or two in the most inappropriate places. Like swallowing a swarm of bees, the sounds come out of my mouth with both a sense of frustrated desperation and sharpness. And, as if a million moth wings were left on the tongues of beautiful men, no one responds with anything more than a rasping grunt or dusty sigh. Even on the bus, I sometimes catch a young stranger’s eye, play the secret games, and have the urge to mutter some line or another, and he would, of course, turn to me and quote the finishing key—it would mean we were meant to be. We all dream this, you can’t say this is not true: Hollywood, London, Paris, Rome, and New York visions are too strong in the eddies and currents of our city streets. These dreams are like the leaves that whip up in the winter wind. They are unexpected and beautiful, and like the leaves, are only meant to decay in a reality of loneliness. The leaves kick up, and blow about us with a cold blast of air that chills us down to the bone.
And so we step off the bus, and though the weight of back-packs and briefcases pull on one shoulder, and though we look back at the attractive stranger on the bus, he does not look back at us, and when the bus departs, it drags a trail of orange leaves and the vicious wind. When we walk home, we are cold. Our houses look gray, darker than we remember them.
My house is dark. This is not some poetic thought hidden inside the belly of a frank statement. No. It is merely fact. Whenever I get home, even when there is a sort of sun, I have to turn on lights just to see where to put down the accumulated stuff of my day. And even when the lights are on, there are strange shadows that never seem to get any light. I worry what is growing in the corners, what strange and lonely things are festering in such a gloom. I do not blame the darkness of the season, for even in the summer, darkness was here.
I HAVE BEEN NOTICE NOTICING IT GETS DARKER EARLIER THAN I REMEMBER
The winter is a terrible time to be alone—all the gray and the cold and rain merely compounds the secret stockpiles of loneliness we all keep in the basements of our chests. We keep them hidden up like hoarded food, or something rotting, forgotten in a damp cellar. The cold only makes the stench ranker. This is not to say I have a smelly house. No; it is dark, true, but the smells are nothing out of the ordinary.
I climbed out onto the roof of my house to see if the darkness had something to do with geography—some hill or towering tree obscuring the sun. I sat on the old tiles and oil coated shingles, naked except for a pair of old shorts and obligatory cowboy hat. There was moss near the eaves and old leaves forming some sort of new ecology, but no looming trees or light-blocking hill. I calculated that the sun should shine directly into my living room, shine in and light up the photographs of friends and lovers. But, as I climbed back inside, careful not to disrupt the damp green moss with my knee, it was just as dark inside as before.
I have been noticing it gets darker earlier than I remember. Granted, I have been living in a desert for more than half of the past 365 days. The white-hot glare of the desert is still a recent memory, and I perhaps continue to expect that sort of light. I still look for my sunglasses when leaving the house… some habits are not easy to break.
Habits are like loneliness. A repeated motion that is easier to practice, especially in the dark of winter and our empty houses. A habit so comforting in its familiarity, we perhaps would rather the demon we know, than the handsome stranger we don’t, even if he did not know all the endings to every song you tested him with. In the end, these misquoted and mis-heard lyrics mean nothing, nothing next to the bright house where you lie next to a man with soft hair and deep ocean iceberg eyes. The house that glows, warm and comforting.
What I mean is this: misquoted lyrics are to be forgiven. Otherwise, the house stays dark and the bed stays cold and empty, covered with a winter’s chill and a thin layer of cold dead leaves. •