The Quality Of Solitude

My work mates, you see, invited me out for a big night out this past Saturday, the express purpose of which was to look cute and flirt shamelessly. I had some doubts about this from the get-go; I had a new skirt I bought in Melbourne (that I hadn’t been able to wear because it is so so so so so windy and cold all the damn time, even though it’s almost Christmas and it’s supposed to be warm) so I wasn’t too worried about looking cute, but I was a little unsure about the flirting thing. I am better, I think, at flirting while sitting around drinking hot chocolate and wearing comfy pants than while not drinking my just-for-appearances glass of champagne I have bought at a loud and annoying Courtenay Place bar. And I’m not feeling very flirty in general lately, to tell you the truth—sure, I asked A. the other day if we can clean the house wearing negligees and marabou-trimmed mules but that’s just to keep in practice, you know? But still. I thought I’d give it a go. Better than staying home on a Saturday night, right?

I dressed up in the new cute skirt and went over to the one girl’s very nice house for a very nice pasta dinner and had a great time discussing sex and religion and politics and which necklace Sarah should wear for several hours. In fact the whole evening was quite fun…until we actually got into the cab and went into town. The crowd at the Southern Cross was mostly people at their Christmas “work dos” and then this very strange band started playing that made me break out in hives. The indie-new-wave night at San Francisco Bath House (which you’s think would be cool, yes?) was completely dead, as in actually no people there at all, and even Good Luck Club was closed for some reason, so we ended up at Jet, which, contrary to my understanding, they were not having a soul/Motown night. I did flirt with a couple of girls who there for a “hen night” (that would be a bachelorette to y’all Americans), but it was only to tell them they looked awesome in their matching purple feather boas. The music was laughably horrid and then my nice new jacket that my mom sent from Florida, of all places, was stolen as I was attempting to dance. I called it a night and grumped my way home and wrote in my paper journal, before getting into bed for a threesome with Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, that going out sucks and that I’m never leaving the house again except to go to the library and New World and maybe the beach if it stays sunny and also probably bellydance and also Fidel’s but only if they have the veggie panini with goat cheese.

Today was much better, I’m happy to report. The sun was shining when I woke up and Cherie came over and we walked into town together in short sleeves, gossiping about everyone we know and re-applying the SPF 30 as we went. We had a scrummy Malaysian lunch and I bought a very St. Tropez-in-1971 floppy hat from the always hilarious Glassons that I plan to wear—with my stupidly, wonderfully oversized shades and my new bikini– on my Christmas-at-the-beach-in-the-Coromandel trip in a couple of weeks. We stuck our heads in at the hostel to say hi to Jill on our way back to Newtown via the Basin Reserve and spent a little time screaming and laughing and and telling lies about the various times I have lent boys dresses so that they could compete in drag beauty competitions. When I finally got home I fell immediately asleep for two and a half hours in a rectangle of sunlight on my freshly made bed, which necessitated my cooking the vegetables for tomorrow’s lunch at ten at night and, I imagine, is the reason that I am writing this entry when I need to be up for work in the morning in another four hours.

I’m very much an extrovert but I’ve always spent a lot of time alone. Have I told you that I still have dreams about the cloud room sometimes, about the very sweet and peaceful way I could be by myself there? I haven’t found anything exactly like that since leaving, but I have to say that my little pink and red and purple room here in Berhampore has its own charms. It looks just like me, if that makes sense; I recognize myself sitting on the bed reading and listening to music and drinking tea and writing long silly emails to people I haven’t seen for a while and won’t see for a while yet.

I go into town at least once a weekend and switch out my library books and run various errands and have lunch and write in my paper journal; going there with Cherie today was actually a bit novel, something we haven’t really done together since the first day we met each other and went shopping for business casual on Lambton Quay in the pouring down rain. I’m much more used to wandering around on my own, noodling around the magazine section at the library, eating a lentil pot pie at Midnight Espresso and making puppy eyes at the adorable expensive skirts next door, stopping at StarMart to pick up another two-zone bus ticket, doing whatever I want for however long I want, coming home to the flat and just doing my thing.

I did all that in Seattle, too, especially on Sundays when I went to the Ballard Market, but somehow it all feels different here and I don’t exactly know why. I don’t think it’s because I personally have changed all that much, inside or out: I still feel the same sense of restlessness, of what-am-I-doing-with-my-life even though I am actually as we speak doing something I’ve wanted to do just by being here. I still think I’m the luckiest person on earth to have all the privileges I have and to be able to mostly do and be whatever I want. I still feel separate sometimes; I still dip into loneliness and have to push hard to get out of it.

Maybe what’s changed is the nature of my friendships here. I have been noticing lately that there’s one thing I do really right, most of the time, and that is that I always find really good people, really good friends. It’s still funny and weird that I left Seattle right smack in the middle of a time where I was so in love with everyone I knew, where I was getting to know more awesome people than I thought lived in the world…turns out they all lived in Northgate and Greenwood and Maple Leaf and Capitol Hill (not to mention Ballard) and we all wanted to hang out together quite a bit. It was sometimes a little bittersweet, knowing that certain friendships were getting stronger and deeper but that I was choosing to leave them anyway. But I was the one doing the leaving, I was the one who was saying goodbye and who wasn’t sure when I’d be coming home.

Here in Wellington I am relatively settled and I am the one who is left; I am always going to goodbye parties and giving hugs and exchanging email addresses and saying “Safe journey!” with the various people I’ve met here. By March or April every single person I met my first couple of weeks here will have moved on, as well as some of the Kiwis I have gotten to know. I haven’t really lived the backpacker lifestyle too much but I know that’s just part of it; you have more intense associations with people you’ve just met and everything’s very heightened because everyone is out of her or his context and everyone is deciding who they’re going to be now that they’re away from home and from people who have known them for years and who have a tendency to raise eyebrows sometimes. You learn to hold people lightly. Well, at least most people do.

That’s why, I guess, the quality of solitude is different, because being social feels different, having friends feels different. For the moment, for the next couple of weeks and months at least, I’m stable and boring, with my art postcards on the wall, my work key card and my comfy duvet. But always in the back of my mind is the knowledge that I will eventually move on, that I’ll leave too, even as I’m sleepily and writing an entry from my warm bed as I’ve done, alone and insomniac, in so many other rooms I’ve decorated, in houses that I still sometimes dream about.

3 comments

  1. Sorry to hear that the party / club experience sucked, and that some nasty person stole your jacket. it was bound to put a damper on your weekend but I think you bounced back remarkably well! The Coromandel trip looks fantastic by the way, and I’m sure the knockout hat,glasses and bikini combo will be suitable match for the stunning scenery!

  2. I never thought about the relationships we develop being a representation of the context of our lives — that some are held lightly and some are held more intensely because of the context in which we meet people. I always just thought I got lucky or unlucky based on the people in my sphere, but it’s also, as you say, so much about whether or not we are in our comfort zones, or not. And moving out of our comfort zones, moving whole hemispheres away from them, in your case, sometimes nets you a whole new set of relationships, not just with different people, but actually, the very nature of the relationships is different. I’m allowing this to marinade a bit. Thanks for allowing me to self-revolve a bit on your blogspace, while extracting some of your wisdom.

    Hublovely and I have been looking at condos in Boston. I keep looking for the proverbial ‘cloud room’ in each place, asking myself, ‘Can I see myself here? Can I hack this place and make my own little cozy corner here?”

    Thanks, Chiara. You’re absolutely winsome on Mozilla Foxfire;)

  3. I really enjoyed reading that post. The feeling that our time in the US is limited has shaped so much of how I interpret my experiences here I think. You say it so well.

    The Coromandel is so pretty, my best place there is Cathedral Cove. My home town is in that area, wave to the L&P bottle in Paeroa if you go by! I hope you get lots of sun and we get lots of snow for our first northern winter…