I was sitting in the cafe of the National Theater this morning, with a hot chocolate and a fruit and nut slice and book of poems (Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing) and note pad and pen, and was just suddenly smacked around the head with how familiar the situation felt. Friday night I dug through a folder I have carted across the world. It is a folder of poems and short creative pieces and drawings, but mostly poems. I was looking for lines by Cohen which I’d taken note of, but couldn’t find them. I remember so clearly sitting upstairs in the National Gallery of Victoria, between shelves, and being awed by this one damn line, and writing it down. And I couldn’t find it. I went out and bought the book, and still haven’t found this line (but found lots of other lines I’ve liked; the spine is already bent, the corners of pages already turned).
But I was sitting in the cafe of the National Theater. And this is something that I spent a lot of time in Melbourne doing: sitting in a very particular cafe, Thresherman’s, with its exposed brick and long wooden tables and dark red brick floor. I would sit with readings, with notebooks. I would write poems endlessly. Some of them are truly terrible. Most of them are stream of consciousness. Most, I have in fact pulled lines from, and inserted them into bigger and better poems. But that feeling of being alone, with a book and a notepad, writing and rhyming in your head – that has not been something I’ve felt for a long time. It is an isolating but comforting feeling. I distinctly had three out of body experiences in the theater, where I zoomed in and out on myself sitting there, perfectly centered, looking out the huge windowed front, rain and grey over the Thames. Everyone with umbrellas. Everyone seemed to be a couple. Everyone in the cafe was an elderly couple (I wrote a few lines on how we are not scared of old age; we are scared of being old and alone).
I have been distinctly bitter about couples recently. Hilariously, a week and a half ago I wrote a post about how to survive a break up. Part of it was letting yourself be a Bridget Jones. I am definitely being a Bridget Jones and I do not know how to get myself out. I am eating everything I can touch (definitely one of the reasons why this is reminding me of being in Melbourne), I am distinctly mopey. I am back to listening to indie music about love that was not made to last. Between the number of deaths this year, personal and celebrity; the horrific politics; my own mental health and precarious personal situation – I am honestly impressed at how I am chugging along.
One of the hardest things to grapple with post-breakup was not so much the past and the memories that were suddenly just, that, just memories. But the future I’d lost too. I had been convinced, and I think so had my family (whom I still haven’t told, aside from my parents, even though it’s been over a month and a half) and his family, that this was it. I was done. This was a done deal. Both 23, been together for over three years but known each other since we were 15. I know a lot of girls who have wedding pinterests and I was (am) no different. The first time I heard Rey’s Theme by John Williams I decided that that was what I was going to walk down the aisle to, and he would be at the end. There was never a dark shadowy stranger – always definite, always him. Our wedding, our house. Children, too. The whole spiel. To have all of that disappear is shocking. Memories you have inside you, or you have photos or mementos – things that prove that, at one point in time, this did happen and perhaps you were happy, and it was all very real for you and for the person who was part of it. Imagining a future, playing things out in your head – it’s all made up, and it’s individual. That’s all gone, and swiftly.
With Beau, the boy I had moved to Melbourne for, our break up was harsh. And then brutal. But it was short. This has been made so much more difficult by the fact he only moved out a week ago. Living with someone you love(d), when sudden boundaries have been drawn, and futures you once dreamed of set on fucking fire – that’s not easy. You can hear him sobbing in the room next door. When he breaks your ice queen walls, which you had painstakingly erected, and shouts you into tears, he will follow you down the one-person-at-a-time corridor. Going to Tesco for the first time and shopping for dinner for one, putting it in the fridge and seeing his dinner for one in there. Still doing his laundry out of habit, then wondering if that’s weird now. Beau and I did not have a life together. My grown-up dreams with him were immature and poorly formed in comparison. Every September I get weird thinking about the baby we could have had, and how different my life would have been. This break up, the sense of utter, devastating loss, feels so much more comparable to losing a baby than it does to when Beau and I finally broke up. Despite, in the end, the few parallels I could draw between the relationships.
Maybe this is what being an adult is, dealing with loss and hurt whilst masking it and just getting on. Not wondering what anyone else is doing. We fucked, but I won’t think of you. I cared more than I should’ve, but I won’t think of you. It gets to the point, and maybe this is ridiculous at only 23, where sometimes I’ll write or have a thought, and I won’t know which boy I’m thinking about, writing about. It blends, and bleeds. All the memories, all the feelings. I feel so strongly, or I feel nothing at all. And it makes it so difficult to keep track. I am not frightened of being alone or living alone, but I am frightened about coming full circle, and returning to the things I used to do to keep myself going. The things I used to do make for good writing, good poems, and good stories. They almost always involve sex, and sometimes they involve drugs. Sometimes they involve girls, sometimes friends, but mostly boys who are in some way equally lonely, I’m sure of it. That’s the trick, isn’t it: to be alone without getting lonely. I am not lonely yet.
(I’ll finish this, I know it is long, I know you stopped reading long ago.) But I’m not lonely yet. I was speaking to a friend and she asked what I was looking for now – sex or a relationship? I couldn’t give her an answer. I’ve thought about it pretty hard. I think I would like everything that was missing from my last relationship; which is, in fact, the reason why I left. To feel wanted – not just appreciated, not someone who’s there like a piece of animate furniture, but to be wanted. Not even needed, that’s too short-term and desperate. Wanted, desired. Sex; to be wanted sexually. To be invited to be part of someone’s day; to be asked, genuinely, how am I. For someone to be interested in me, and what I have done and what I would like to do; my plans and my dreams and my ideas, my favorite films and my travels and the tattoos I would like and why. To be made to feel attractive. I can sleep alone, that doesn’t frighten me. It does frighten me to think of future me sleeping alone.