This is what I said to a friend today.
He said “I’m a different person when I’m alone.” I replied, “I don’t exist when I’m alone.”
I don’t really know why I said this. And as soon as it was out of my mouth I felt sad, and unsure as to whether it was even true or what had prompted me to say it. But saying these words connected in my mind to something we had been talking about earlier in the day; about my childhood and how I had spent so much of it alone, from early morning to late at night, while the rest of my family worked on the house we were building. I was too small to help in the early years. It started when I was five years old.
We had moved from Sydney up to a rural area on the Sunshine Coast at the end of the school year, and for three long months over the summer before grade one started I was left alone in the house. I didn’t have any friends yet to call over, and my sisters, being quite a bit older than me, were recruited to help my mother and father with the laboring.
I remember the boredom and loneliness of those long hours without anyone to keep me company but the television. Watching the movie Grease several times each and every day, rewinding and restarting as soon as it ended; I can still recite the dialogue if pressed. The anticipation of my mother coming home after dark to relieve my solitude, so much like the way I feel now when I’m expecting a lover to arrive. This continued for years: after school, weekends, and school holidays. Sometimes I would have friends over to relieve the loneliness, but the majority of the time that I spent at home I was alone, waiting, anxious, not knowing when or if my mother would come home, my father being as violent and unpredictable as he was.
I had never before connected the way I feel when I am alone as an adult with these early years I spent alone , though it seems so obvious now. But now that I know, what can I do to change the way I feel about time by myself? I feel that time alone is time lost, time not shared is time not experienced. Time sucked into a vacuum. I’m still aging. Time is still passing. But I have nothing to account for it. No way to prove I ever even existed during these periods…unless I am with someone, to corroborate.
For now this is just another connection, another realisation. For today that is enough. I understand why being alone is so painful: the child in me feels she is missing out, while others are out creating something. I understand why waiting for someone to show up makes me feel so desperate: the child in me doesn’t know if they will ever come back, and one more second alone is an eternity of loneliness, interminable.
She only needs some reassurance that she will not be left alone forever. Or now that she is an adult, to go out into the world and join the others. She no longer needs to wait for someone to take her hand and lead her out.