Nashville, TN, a day in April, 2012


On Saturday evening, in a self-consciously symbolic gesture, I thoroughly cleaned my room. Uncluttered room, uncluttered mind.

“Everyday is new,” I told myself on Sunday morning, taking in my clean room. Truthfully, I didn’t feel very different than before, when things were messy.

That afternoon I went to the coffee shop, thinking it would be pleasant and lighten my mood to get out and be among people.

The front porch was packed with students recently back from their spring break, smoking and talking. Inside there was a long line of them. I ordered, chatted with the staff a bit, and walked to the gas station to buy cigarettes while they made my food. I smoked a cigarette out there on the porch, waiting. The crowd was getting to me. All that week it had been much calmer, with the students away, and I had intended to enjoy a peaceful moment, perhaps chat up some regulars, and puff away at my cigarette. Instead I was ill at ease. There were attractive girls everywhere it seemed, indifferent to my presence, don’t ask me why. Up until that point I had spent the weekend more or less with myself—tiring company admittedly yet anything but indifferent—and now myself was beginning to make me uncomfortable, if such a thing is possible, and it is. The crowds of attractive people agitated me, disconcerted me, as if they were rubbing my nose in the shit of their complacency. One can respond to this sort of thing with disdain or aloof superiority, which in a sense is appropriate, but I was feeling particularly out of sorts, persecuted by loneliness. It seems to me I’ve said that before, or thought it. Here were the prosecutors, these young, unburdened and self-satisfied students. Other people are always the problem in this way (though where would we be without them?), they put solitude into an unfortunate perspective.

Yet in the end this afternoon indulgence in self-pity did me some good because I began working with renewed fervor, and even wrote what would eventually become this. And I admit that having lived this text and moved past it, only to return to it now, it does seem to me a little excessive, but one can’t help how one feels, especially how one felt.

Drawing by Keenan Julies