It’s late at night, the moon shining through the living room window. I should be asleep but I’m not. I’m lying with the cat, awake but sleepy. I’m enjoying the night, enjoying the silence, enjoying my own company. My partner is away for the night, down in Homer to check on the cabin while I stayed here in Anchorage because I hurt my back a few days ago and didn’t want to sit upright in a vehicle for close to five hours.
Really, though, I wanted to be alone. I love to be alone. It scares me how much I love it, how much I crave it, how even when I’m around people, even when I’m happy and the conversation flows and there is much laughter and joy, a small part of my mind patiently waits until I am alone again.
I’ve always been this way. I remember crawling out of my bedroom window as a child when relatives came over because I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. Books were my truest friends, and in third grade I fell in love with Jim Frayne II from the Trixie Belden series. I truly believed that he was real (and he is, isn’t he?). I carried around one of the books that featured his picture and once in the lunch line when a girlfriend asked me if I had a boyfriend, I nodded my head yes.
“What’s his name?” she asked.
“Jim,” I said.
“Is he cute?”
“Sure,” I shrugged.
She asked if he went to our school and I said no. Then I opened the book and showed her the picture. She burst out laughing, and I truly didn’t understand because in my mind, he was real. All characters in all of the books I read were real. I didn’t expect to meet them on the street but I believed that somewhere, someplace, they lived and breathed and moved about.
For weeks, classmates teased me about my imaginary boyfriend, but I ignored them. And even when I had a real boyfriend the following year, a blond-haired boy named Jeffrey Nutupski who called me up every night and breathed over the phone, too shy to speak, even then I still missed Jim Frayne, who in my mind was the perfect boy for me, who understood me as no other, who was smart and sensitive and kind and exactly what I wanted (probably because he had been written by a woman).
After Jim, I fell in love with a variety of other boys in other books: Ken from My Friend Flicka and Alec from The Black Stallion. Soon after, I got a horse of my own and forgot about boys, so obsessed as I was over all things horses.
I still read, of course. I’d fill a large cloth purse with a book, sandwich and Kool-Aid, hop on my horse and head off for the woods, where I’d lie in the cool shade and read the afternoon away.
Sometimes even now, I find myself falling in love with people from books: Captain Wentworth from Persuasion (can any real man ever compare?) and Jane Clifford from Gail Godwin’s The Odd Woman and Salley Garden from Susan Cheever’s Looking for Work, and oh, so many others. I suppose this is because I see parts of myself in these characters or flashes of the person I’d like to be but know I will probably never become.
But no matter: I’m alone tonight and the house is quiet and cat’s head is warm on my lap and the moon moves slowly across the sky and I have a good book to read and words to write and really, how could I possible be lonely when I have all of this?
Kevin Brennan’s wonderfully written Occasional Soulmates is free this weekend. I highly recommend. It’s funny, quirky and unpredictable. Best of all, the dialogue rocks. Download it here.
Playwright and poet Arlitia Jones features two lovely poems from Hayden Carruth on her blog GRAMPUS, in tribute of National Poetry Month (which was April but still worthy of mention).