After all the injuries of being a very nerdy child in public school, and all the betrayals that seem to happen among teenage girls no matter their bookishness, and all the inexplicable reversals in relationships (romantic and not), I find great comfort and strength in being alone. I joyfully travel (farther and farther now that I can get on an airplane) and learn to do new things and see movies and eat in restaurants, and all kinds of other things people seem to prefer to do in pairs or groups, by myself. Once, someone asked me on a date, and my first thought was, “If this works out, it’s really going to wreck my travel plans.”
It seems to surprise people. I once had a Mobius strip of a conversation that went sort of like this. “Who are you here with?” “I’m here by myself.” “But didn’t you come with someone?” “No, I came alone.” “But, that time we missed each other, weren’t you away at a wedding with somebody?” “No, I was at a wedding by myself, and it was lovely.”
That said, in spite of all the travel and experience and joy, a piece of me always seems to be hoping for something else. Something that isn’t alone.
Apart from family, there are a few people in the world who I have always felt made me better by their proximity. Not at all a sense of “You complete me,” because I find that idea absurd. More like the way a struck tuning fork can make the other hum. Or the way light can excite the electrons in a phosphorescent material so that, when the light is out, it glows.
The trick to that one, though, is that you really can’t see the glow until the light is gone.
This poem is really short in part because I’d been rolling the basic sense of “less your light I phosphoresce” around in my head for months. It started out with a completely different thought — originally, it was “beneath your light I phosphoresce.” The light was still there. But that wasn’t where it wound up, and beyond those three lines I couldn’t figure out where to go. I struggled with it without ever getting to where to go next. Maybe I would have if I’d not, after years of occasional poking around, finally found someone I’d never been able to find on Facebook. Someone who, years ago, simultaneously lifted me up by his proximity and cut me down. Someone who, back then, I couldn’t imagine living without, even though now I’ve been living without him for more than a decade.
Back to the poem: “State“