Accident ruled every corner of the universe
except the chambers of the human heart.– David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars
Last night was the graduate school formal. I did not go. There was also a formal last quarter and it was much smaller in scale, supposedly more familiar since it was organized by the department. I did not go to that, too. This is what I now know with certainty: I don’t do well in large crowds. I don’t do well in unfamiliar territories where people dress up to the nines, let loose with a few glass of wine, and take goofy photos. I don’t care how good it looks like “Hey I’m having a ball of a time here!” on social media – I can’t bring myself to go. I’ve identified that much about myself, and now it doesn’t even upset me for choosing not to go. In the past, I’d internally kick myself for my social awkwardness but these days I tell others honestly that I don’t want to go because I always end up feeling so out of my element to the point that I get anxiety attacks. “My time is better spent doing other things,” I’d respond, “but you go and have fun! Take some photos in your lovely dress for me!”
Then there are parties, of which I’d go only if I absolutely have to, like a close friend’s surprise birthday party. But you know, honestly? I hate it. I hate the awkwardness, of always being that girl in the far corner. I hate being the wallflower. I hate having to fight, sometimes even argue, my way to get a non-alcoholic beverage, because the cornerstone of cool is how much liquor one can hold. I hate not getting the memo ergo for my social misses like turning up over- or under-dressed. But the thing I hate the most, is how unfamiliar typically familiar faces seem, as if the dim lighting is directly proportional to dialing down a person’s characteristics. I hate feeling so alone in what is supposed to be a familiar crowd.
I’ve learned my lesson one too many times, and precaution isn’t even a thing anymore. I just say no, thank you.
Sometimes I am convinced that each person needs to try living alone, at least once, because how could you not? Then I’d speak to classmates here who would rather tolerate a less-than-pleasant housemate than live by themselves. Funny, for me it was never even an option – I didn’t just want the studio, I needed it. I wonder if they remember that I live by my thriving self. I wonder what they think of me.
Sometimes I am convinced that something is terribly wrong with me, because I like nothing better than to be left alone.
Last Friday over dinner with the friend, I finally mustered the courage to casually ask her how it’s like with her husband. She claimed to understand my social awkwardness and need to exist as a one-person company. “Did you… did it change you?” I posed my question cautiously and hesitantly. She smiled, and said it’s okay. “You didn’t… it didn’t feel like you’d to compromise or lose a part of yourself?” She smiled again, and merely said that in any relationship, both sides will compromise, deliberately or eventually. “I…” I tried again, willing her to understand something that I don’t, “Sometimes it hit me that I’m twenty-three, that I’m at this age where I should desire for relationships, you know? The other day I found out some old friends are engaged. Engaged! It hit me that I’m, oh my god, technically I’m at marrying age. These days my girlfriends talk about relationships, wanting to be in one or looking to settle down. I… don’t feel anything.”
I paused. I’m starting to feel like this is a bad idea, uncertain where I am going with this.
“When I think of my decision to return home after this, it’s not because I’m looking to settle down or because I can’t find someone here, you know what I mean? The kind of stories we hear a lot about other people, when they make that long journey home. It’s not so much the family either. I think I’m just tired of feeling like I don’t have roots anywhere, that I’ve nothing to my name. But I have all these dreams, you know? Desires. When I think of places that I want to travel to, I bookmark them for future reference and work my schedule around trying to make them happen.”
I paused again. Now I’m certain I’ve no idea where I’m going with this and darn it, it’s too late to turn back.
“You know how there are certain places that girls don’t want to go by themselves, or they’d save it for their honeymoon or when they have a significant other they can visit it with? Like apparently one of my friend is saving Hawaii for her honeymoon. I’ve never thought about it that way – the thought never crossed my mind. Not once. If I feel like I want to visit a place, I think about how I can make it happen. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a partner-in-crime but I don’t plan around a hypothetical person.”
Too late to turn back, might as well walk the whole nine yards.
“I’ve always thought of relationships as… a negative. Someone loses out, someone has to. It’s not that I don’t think about it, but I feel like I’m unable – unwilling – to let go of my independence. I see it with my sister – suddenly a decision isn’t yours alone to make. You agree too, right? Suddenly you’re deciding for two or three. Or when I look at my brother, who married at twenty-four. He wanted it so it’s not like he regretted the move, but with the baby right after, suddenly all the ambitious dreams he harbored – now they take different forms and flights, you know? The compromise. The delay. I can’t… ever imagine that. I don’t know how to, and whether I could give up any of mine.”
According to the stupid personality test I took some nights ago at friggin’ 2 AM, I have an incredibly independent mind but lo and behold, lack self-confidence. Apparently my autonomy is on a high scale, but I have trouble opening up to others. … Duh? But honestly, I don’t think my trouble is opening up to others – it’s my unwillingness. These days, I realize more and more, my deliberate and pointed attempts to be left alone. It’s not that I dislike people, not really. I… it’s just hard to focus when there is a crowd because someone will end up being the chatty one – myself included. For all my bitching about spending weekends in the library, the truth is that I love it. I love this particular part of the library, neatly tucked away in the corner and hidden from view by upright bookshelves offering wide selections of encyclopedia and law textbooks. I love the obscurity too much.
I love the deliberate silence. Too much. Too damn much.
There are lonesome days, and sometimes I want nothing better than being able to call someone to hang out. But most of the time I just want company; I don’t want to talk. Who the hell would understand this? Is there someone out there who would understand my obsession with private and personal spaces? I’m well-aware how selfish I sound and I won’t even deny it. I’ve yet to meet someone who understands this yearning to be alone in the same breath that I do. I don’t consider myself a social hermit, because it’s not like I am scared of people. I just… prefer to be left alone. I sound sad, don’t I? But I’m not, that’s the thing. I am happiest when I find a quiet corner without anyone occupying the space.
These days I find myself feeding on romantic poems. My heart throbs at the beauty of the sentiments expressed and more than once, I am swept away by the delicate frays of lingering sadness. I love the coy arrangement of words; deliberate and purposeful. The longing is heartfelt, and love spills through the page or screen. My best friend, the former deskmate, overflows with love – too much to hold in, she’s constantly giving hers away. One of my classmates is similar to Third Sis – constantly at the receiving end, they’re too used to it that they beam and radiate with the overflowing love they receive. My friend tells me that she understands me, that we’re kindred souls …but she’s mistaken. We’re not.
The other day was her birthday, and the number of people who turned up to her party to celebrate the day with her is astounding. She is a great person, kind and hardworking – it is now clear to me that others recognize that something special in her too. If indeed I am guarded, maybe it’s true she is too but our differences are stark; she holds her heart closely to her the way I do, but she doesn’t hold it at bay, away from others. She appreciates being alone, but doesn’t actively and consciously seek for it. She gives and takes when it comes to personal and private spaces. She belongs somewhere, there is a mold that fits her, in the arms of another. She gives and receives love.
Sometimes I don’t understand it myself, but I know enough that I don’t know how to do the same. I don’t know how to give love, because the only one I receive in the same vein as a romantic love – unconditional and overflowing – is from the family and still, that is different. Most of the time trying to belong is painful, awkward, and a failed attempt. The mismatch is obvious and the mold won’t fit me. It never does. I can’t remember when’s the last time I’ve liked someone, and worse, I don’t think there’s ever a time that someone from the opposite sex actually likes me.
Sometimes I’m convinced there is something terribly wrong with me. I claim that it’s my extreme desire to be left alone, but… I wonder if it’s really an excuse I create for myself, trying to hide the truth of not knowing how to love.
What does it feel like, to be thought of as so splendidly special to another person – the muse to his poetry, the spilled love between the lines, the heartfelt longing in his quivering voice, and the strawberry aftertaste following his kiss?