The plane is boarding. I have heard the attendant call my group three times, but I have not moved. As soon as my eyes stop watering, I think. As soon as this stops. As soon as I am better. But it will not get better, won’t seem to go away. I throw up my hands, literally – just fling wrists and elbows into the air as I am sitting there at the gate. The seating area is almost empty; only one person turns the corner of her eyes toward me, slightly bewildered.
Over and over, I hear my own voice in my head. Yelling. Screaming. Why are you so upset? Nothing happened. Nothing happened! But that’s why. That’s just the problem. Nothing happened – nothing ever does. Welcome to the rest of your life.
I get on the plane and keep my gaze down, find my seat, curl up into a ball and let myself be alone. Let myself be unfettered by the crowd of people with whom I am trapped on this giant metal box that is about to be two thousand feet in the air. I am an ostrich now. If they can’t see my face, they won’t know. I won’t be exposed.
The papers on my desk have reached critical levels of clutter. I don’t want to clear them. Almost unwittingly, my head lowers itself to the desk. I am on eye level with the mess, tiny shadows beneath each pile now colossal. I can hear footsteps in the neighboring office and outside the door. I am willing them away. Tears don’t come because I have willed those away, too. Someone is waiting for me at home, but it’s not enough.
When people come in, I have to get up and participate in the world again. They are cutting paper and printing posters and planning things. I do not fit in with them. The phone rings, and I am the only person sitting at my desk. As I answer, I wonder how many ways there are of being alone.
It is late, and I can’t pretend to sleep anymore. I’m sitting in the darkness on my apartment floor, listening to the heat roar on and off, listening to the refrigerator hum. Just listening. I do not remember the last time I fell apart in private.
The places we most try to avoid are the places that call us back again and again, the places that pull us to them. Here I am. Here I am again. And he’s sleeping right here but he’s not here. The only alone I want is alone together.
I close my eyes and I am walking, and I am no where. Wandering halls and staring out smudged windows and avoiding questioning looks, I do not register the people as anything more than pairs of eyes. They barely see me. In public, out in the open, I am hiding in plain sight.