Monday, February 27, 2012

"Loneliness Will Eat Me": An Edible Mishap of a Narrative

It was the cake that had nothing going for it.

The bag of shredded carrots had been labelled "Best Used Before December 7, 2011". I had run out of eggs and then scrounged a few from some unsuspecting roommate. The 1.5cups of veggie oil was supplemented with olive oil (yes, extra virgin). The mixing wasn't working quite right. I didn't sift the dry ingredients and the bits of carrot turn slightly green in color, giving the whole cake a greyish hugh under the yellow electric light of late night kitchen work. There wasn't enough cream cheese for the icing but I wasn't going to run to a store to get more so I made do with a little more butter.

I'm not kidding when I say it had nothing going for it.


The Saturday had not been what I had imagined. Friday has included several hours of dance workshops and a salsa social. Saturday was State Patty's Day, a time when the very air and energy of downtown is exhausting to me. Against my natural will to hide in my bed, I had spent 4 hours in a snow fall and heavy wind handing out hot chocolate to boisterous revelers in green tshirts and left over mardi gras bling. Then a nap had swept me into the evening. It was a windy dark and I was suddenly keenly aware that I did not want to be alone. This feeling had been following me around for most of the week following the refreshing time at Jubilee. I just didn't want to be caught in my own presence without proper warning. I wanted to choose my own quiet. I didn't want it chosen for me.

So I scrambled. I facebooked and called and texted and pleaded. In the end, it was me and Robbie Parks who walked through the growingly uncontrolled harsh-throated male yells and high pitched female laughs and screeches. We arrived just at "The Muppet Movie" began in the HUB, getting in with our old and expired student ids. It was a charming movie that inspired laughter and some dancing in our theater seats.

But it was short. We chatted with another friend about the coming Oscars and walked back toward our corner of the world.

And the diversion of a few hours was over. I was alone again.

I've been reading "Still" by Lauren Winner. It is her latest book, somewhere between a collection of essays and a memoir. She calls them "Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis". She described in one vignette the intense experience of loneliness. How she rushes to fix it, to ignore it, to call a friend, pour herself another drink, read a book: anything to avoid loneliness. But how she is trying to wait for Loneliness to have its way, to sit with it a while, that maybe it has something for her.

Still, I relate with the great belief that Loneliness threatens my existence. Winner describes it like this, "I ask her what she has for me. She takes a letter opener from her bag and tells me she can kill me if she wants to" (Winner 59). And tonight, I am particularly terrified that this Loneliness is going to catch me and eat me.

I am trying to practice "acceptance", though. Accept what is and not fight against the silent heavens for what is not. Job on a super small scale. So I sit and wait. I read some more of "Still". I put my phone face down. I get off facebook because I keep compulsively checking to make sure that someone remembers I'm there and that they still want to be friends with me. I turn on some music. Then turn it off again. Then turn it on again.

Baking a cake seems like the best option, the middle ground between doing nothing and running away from the eating. It seemed the best option to just make something and maybe eating it would keep Loneliness from eating me.

 I choose  Josh Garrel's "Love & War & The Sea Inbetween" as my soundtrack and began.

Later, I told Hannah about this loneliness. How I don't have a good reason for it. That I have the best roommates in the world. That I see her [hannah] every few days. That church is good. My students are good. The weather is good. My life is full of being with people and dancing and talking and good things.

She answers: "That is the worst kind. It comes even in a group of people and so when you tell someone that you are lonely, they think you are being selfish. But really, you are actually lonely. You don't choose it. It just happens."


The cake had been in the oven 2 minutes when Fraleigh called. Sara had come into town and they were heading to the swing dance. I turned the oven off and went dancing.

Yes, I decided to run. Was it running? Yes. I somehow justified it by saying "Someone else invited me!" And I did feel better. Blood moving. Some fun Lindy hop. A great chat with a man from Hyderabad about recent politics in Andra Pradesh.

Then I went home. Walked in the door. And discovered that Melanie in being herself had attempted to finish the cakes AND clean the sprawling mess I had left. I had every intention of coming back and cleaning the mess myself. Did she not realize this? The cake had been baked for a strange amount of time and then turned off and then turned on again. I guessed at how much longer it needed. I yanked my icing supplies out of the cupboards again.

I was irrationally angry at her attempt to help with the Loneliness cake. And she knew it.

Then I drank tea and felt better about it.

This cake, really and truly, had nothing going for it. I abandoned "Loneliness" once it came out of the oven and decided to deal with it in the morning.
Sunday: The loneliness feeling is still there but not as strong. Mel and I laughed in unspoken reconcilliation over her cake interference as both halves of the cake refused to come out of the pans and broke in half and crumbled in various places and had to be glued together with clumpy icing and barely, just barely, managed to look and smell and taste like a carrot cake.

I spend the afternoon after church with some friends in Saints Cafe. I am there long enough to use my teabag three times until it no longer has anything left to steep. I tell them about my Saturday night and the cake and Mel trying to fix it and swing dancing and how ugly it is and how I named it "Loneliness Will Eat Me". And they laugh and Dan in particular insists that there is nothing pathetic about being alone on a Saturday night. That it's a gift, actually. Anjali asks for a picture. They both ask that I bring it to the Oscars party because "It can't be as bad as you say it is."

So I take it. We eat most of it while tallying our points for the most accurate predictions and drinking the "Alpine Spice" wine and noting that the cake and the wine are a good pairing. Zach insists that is isn't half as bad as I think it is. Many people take seconds. And little by little,--as our quips at Billy Crystals non-humor pile up and the list of Benedict sightings grows slightly greater in number and we all promise ourselves to see "Hugo" as soon as possible-- the Threat of Loneliness seems to dwindle one small bite at a time.

1 comment:

Brittany said...

i can relate so much to this post. well done putting into words a rather awkward and indescribable emotion :)