I am alone right this moment. I’ve been alone since yesterday at about this time (it’s 1:28 PM on a Friday afternoon).
I’ve been alone a lot recently. It’s an unusual circumstance for me. I just moved to a new city for a new job and have a couple weeks off before I start. So, I’ve been alone in my new apartment for many hours at a time. My boyfriend, who I live with, started his new job already. My aloneness starts around 9:00 AM everyday when I kiss him goodbye and ends when he returns each evening around 7:00 PM.
I now endure 10 hours of aloneness each day.
My boyfriend is traveling right now. He’s in New York City for a work meeting. He’s staying near One World Trade Center (his office is downtown in the financial district). I’ve been physically alone now for 24 hours 6 minutes.
On the phone last night took me on a verbal tour of One World Trade Center. I’ve been once before. My mother and I went together two years ago, one gray day in September. It was September 11th, I realized as we took the elevator up to the top floor. I was home for my mother’s birthday. There was a lot of security. It was loud.
My mother and I stared down into the gaping hole of the tower that once was. I thought it looked small. I didn’t mean to, but I came across a man’s name. He died in the attack. He was the father of my sister’s friend. I ran my fingers over the letters, my mother cried. You can feel the letters because they are engrained into the stone. I think I cried too butI don’t remember.
Thomas, however, thought One World Trade Center was beautiful. He sent me photos of the building at night. He got lost at the Westfield and I heard what I assumed to be a security agent giving him directions on how to exit.
I told Thomas that my father, who works in Manhattan, saw the second building go down. He heard on the news that there had been an egregious attack, that there were expectations of more. He called coworkers into his office where they watched the second plane go into the second tower, the gray smoke balloon up into the sky. I didn’t know why I hadn’t told him that before.
I do not imagine there is a difference between aloneness and loneliness when you lose someone so abruptly, so unfairly. I think of Mrs. Smith, the wife of my sister’s friend’s father who died in the Trade Center. I saw the daughter from a distance recently, at a yoga class in my town. My mother had to tell me who she was. I didn’t remember what she looks like. It had been so long since I’d seen her, so long since I’ve thought of her loss.
I entered into these weeks of aloneness with intense anxiety. What would I do all alone? Would I feel bored? Lonely? Was that the point of it all? I now feel guilt for these questions..
I am not lonely. For me, there is a difference between aloneness and loneliness. I can be alone without being lonely.I wait for Thomas to come home to kiss me; for my girl friends to come over for dinner or a drink; for my sisters to FaceTime me; for my mom or dad to call me. The people I love come back to me.
It is a privilege to enjoy this aloneness; it is a wonder to understand a difference between aloneness and loneliness. For losing someone close, I imagine a collision between aloneness and loneliness. There no longer remains joy in being alone. When you’re alone, you feel lonely, and you always feel alone. I can enjoy aloneness because it is temporary.
I am nearing the end of my time alone. I’ll start a new job at a consulting firm in a few days, where I’ll work in a cubicle surrounded by other cubicles, constantly running to meetings. I’ll never have to be alone, just the way I like it.
I applauded myself for challenging myself to take some time for myself, even though it scared me. I was proud at my attempts to feel comfortable in not constantly being highly productive, in not always doing something. I told myself I was taking action to strengthen my character by being alone.
Instead of feeling proud of myself as my weeks of aloneness comes to an end, I have a blurred image of Mrs. Smith in my head. My fingertips remember the feeling of her husband’s name on the cool stone; I can recall the goose bumps that popped up to my skin when I saw my mother cry.
I think of you now, Mrs. Smith and daughter. I hope you’ve come back to a place where aloneness can exist alone.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Skye Aresty graduated with an English degree from Bowdoin College in 2016 and now works in healthcare consulting in Boston. She teaches yoga and (tries to) write on the side. She hopes to combine the two to create an impactful change (one day).