While writing "All Alone" earlier this week, my fingers actually kept tap-tap-tapping away. And I looked up, and the sun had not only set, it was pitch dark outside. And a whole story had poured out. The post was so long I had to chop it in half, wrap up my thoughts and finish it in this post.
These past few months I've been thinking a lot about what "loneliness" and "being alone" are. 'Tis typical for me every time we move and are in the re-settling phase. I mean, being a Stay-at-Homer doesn't exactly grow your social network very quickly. And make that a mother of three young children and you further separate a person from general society. Now add on to that the "living on the Lost Coast" part and I've got the rural-ness to contend with. Yes, the same rural-ness that we're choosing and that I love so much about where we're living right now.
But anyhow, a few weeks ago I was feeling the pangs of loneliness. Just little ones, like wishing to sit around chatting and laughing with friends, but thoughts of alternate, idyllic realities, nonetheless.
And this got me to thinking how loneliness and being alone are two very different things.
Lately I've been feeling "lonely." Not bad lonely. Not depressed lonely. Just in need of more authentic connection. I think that's why I finally got this blog up and going again this winter. Not because blogging is somehow more authentic than real-life experience, but it's a more realistic constant at this stage for me. I mean, toting around three kids here and there in our now-slightly-way-out-there location is crazy at its best.
But loneliness is such a subjective experience.
One can be all alone and brimming with ideas, energy, and passion.
Or, one can be all alone and feel like something is still missing. Missing from their ideal or expected experience.
On top of that, one can be surrounded by noise that equals downtown San Francisco, chattering onFacebook, with one babe on the breast and two others begging for another book, and still feel "lonely." That's me on some days.
So on that note, here's the most "alone" I've ever felt in this lifetime. A memory not-oft shared that tumbled out into this space the other night. A solid mix of "alone" and at times "lonely" while on the road in South America with my love eight years ago now.
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We'd been backpacking around South America since finishing our Peace Corps stint. And after living for weeks and months in cities and towns throughout the continent, we'd fallen head over heels in love with Buenos Aires.
And on our last day before our big splurge, a flight (gasp! No 36-hour bus-trip!) out to Iguazu Falls, we decided to visit the famed La Boca. The famous Buenos Aires 'hood.
On our walk back to our lodging, small backpack and camera slung around the neck of my 200-pound soul-mate, we took the waterfront walk. It seemed not only shorter, but the prettier route.
And we began to marvel at the 'hood that was now visible. Not the place the tour buses were visiting a few minutes south of us, with the colorfully painted walls and paid-tango-dance performers. But the groups of barefoot kids playing ball on narrow dusty streets. We momentarily felt like we'd time-walked into another decade. The bustling metropolis just a mile away felt much further. And we both wondered aloud how there can be such a discrepancy between tourist-filled-places and real-life in much of the world.
We've both always preferred the off-the-beaten-path when we leave home.
We walked on.
Another family passed us.
Children holding hands, tiny arms swinging back and forth.
A young couple quietly slipped by, lost in a world young hearts go to on balmy summer afternoons.
Then two young men walking. Jogging. Suddenly approaching us very fast. Locking on. Fixed eyes. Wide pupils.
And a moment later I stood there screaming profanity upon profanity as my husband stood clenching his side, stabbed in the chest. I'd seen the struggle, as Joshua had pushed me to the side with "run" uttered somewhere in between this strange reality taking place.
And in the blink of an eye they were off. Running away, jumping a fence, long knife in hand, disappearing into that same neighborhood we'd just been gazing into.
We tried to gain our composure. My husband was much better at this. But I couldn't stop yelling. And then I noticed the blood from under his hand. Blood dripping down his white quick-dry shirt. I couldn't stop yelling. Maybe something would change. Maybe it would somehow help. My anger was guarding me against a place of fear I didn't want to go to. Until my husband asked me to stop. "Honey, children might here you." And I yelled some more. "Fine. Help! Please. Someone. Help us!"
Within moments a few people joined us to ask if we were alright. Someone phoned the police. An officer arrived. I explained, shaking beyond comprehension, in my now-nearly-lost-and-panicking Spanish, what'd happened. A huge kitchen knife. A chef's knife. My husband's side. Stabbed.
Joshua wanted to get in a taxi and go home. "I'll be fine." But everyone kept telling us to stay put. And I wanted to take him to a doctor at the minimum. After a half hour of explaining, fuming, telling and re-telling the story, an ambulance arrived and we hopped in. And as we rode, Joshua complained of suddenly having a hard time breathing. By the time we reached the hospital he was quickly admitted.
A few minutes later a doctor came out to tell me they were just going to run a few tests. I waited patiently.
Five minutes later..."Just to be safe we're going to do an X-ray." Sounds great. Please, I agreed.
Then moments later, "What type of insurance--you have?" Suddenly, fear. Confusion. Crappy post-Peace Corps insurance. He left again.
A nurse came back out to tell me they were admitting Joshua for immediate surgery. And more details that I couldn't understand. "Call your insurance and ask them if 'Pnuemothorax' is covered."
I ran across the street wondering what in the world was happening. Pnuemo-what? My god, how was I ever going to reach anyone on a Sunday in the United States at an insurance company!
That day was one of the longest I've ever lived. Yet. I waited all afternoon, All evening. And that night I sat as Joshua lay somewhere else in that crowded hospital in the same neighborhood he'd been stabbed in. I sat on long benches with families who sat tense one moment and bawling the next. I sat alone. No phone. No friend. No husband.
And finally around eight o'clock Joshua was rolled into the corridor on a gurney. He was pale, cold, and confused. I'd so been hoping he would be able to explain what had happened. He had no idea. He'd just woken. Something about 'lots of tugging.' And at his side, a hose draining his pleural cavity.
I stayed as long as I could, but by ten o'clock visiting hours were over and I was escorted out of the hospital to a payphone to call a cab. Joshua would be in the hospital for the week.
And as I left the hospital that night, I have never felt that alone in my entire life. That day our future years vanished before my eyes. And I was leaving behind my life-partner and soul mate in a place across town, returning in the darkness to a city I suddenly couldn't trust anymore.
Our comfortable, in-sync traveling routine, our perfectly meshed thoughts, our mind-reading--all of it--disappeared in an instant. And I felt alone. And alive. And terribly worried.
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