I don’t go out often. I leave the house only to run an errand here or there…to the pharmacy to pick up a refill of a prescription, to the grocery store, to get some gas for my car. Not working has totally destroyed my routines and the rhythm of my life. Nothing much seems to matter. My house is a pit and I hate it, but I haven’t the energy now that I have the time, so it goes unattended. On a rare occasion, I will meet a friend for a cup of coffee. I troll the internet seeking employment, but my electronic missives go unheeded and unheard. I am mostly alone, but for the company of my two sweet Schnauzers. It is a bleak existence. Only their little faces bring me joy.
Being alone so much can make a person crazy, I think.
Which may explain my actions. Normally, when I receive an invitation on my door, I immediately throw it in the trash. Especially an invitation to a gathering in the park. Why I kept this particular invitation and why I decided to actually attend is truly beyond me. But for some strange reason, I purposed in my heart that I was going to go to the Homeowners Association sponsored event in the park in my subdivision last night. Unheard of! Astounding! And not only did I decide to go, I actually went.
It started at 6, so I left the house about 6:05. I decided to walk since it was a nice evening and the park isn’t too horribly far from where I live. As I walked, I felt such a strange sensation. It was as if my senses were heightened. I heard the soft wind caressing the trees and houses, sliding over the rooftops. I noticed the flowers, yards, both kept and unkempt, shrubbery, ivy, bushes, blossoms. I heard the birds singing and spotted a mockingbird on the very top of a roof, enthusiastically warbling its varied song. Dogs came to the fence to bark or to greet me. The grass moved beneath the hand of the soft breeze. The sun shone gently and white puffy clouds floated listlessly in the blue sky. I felt as if everything around me was alive and connected and calling out in joy, just from the pleasure of being. The sensation of energy rolled from the doorways and windows of almost every house I passed. Yet, I was in an isolated bubble, walking among the thriving world, observing, but disconnected. Alone.
There were already a lot of people in attendance when I reached the small park. Lots of kids, especially. Families. Couples. An older woman with her middle aged daughter. A circle of friends. A couple of cops. Groups of people. Connected. Laughing. Watching the children playing on the playground equipment. I smiled at a few people and they quickly smiled back as they turned away, their attention aimed toward those they knew, cherished, cared for. Conversations rose and fell, laughter tinkled across the small park from one group to the next. A man started playing music and several people moved closer to listen and clap. Groups. Couples. Friends. And me. I was the only person in attendance who was alone.
I made myself stay for 40 minutes. Gritting my teeth inwardly. I tried to act as if I was just a normal person, like those who surrounded me. Harmless. Alive. Going about the business of living and enjoying a fun night at the park. But the entire time I was there, tapping my foot to the music as I sat on the fence rail, drinking my bottled water with a benign smile on my face, I felt like a fake among whole, pure, real people. A plague. A zombie. The walking dead watching life, trying to fit in, trying to act as if I belonged.
When I finally slipped over the low fence rail and walked off into the evening, I felt numb. Broken. I had watched life happening all around me; people being people, enjoying each other, enjoying a simple pleasure, eating hotdogs and laughing and talking and playing. I had observed them, but I was not one of them. Walking home, going the long way to avoid going by the park again, I felt a heavy weight on me. The birds were still singing, the breeze was beginning to have a chill to it, the sky was still clear, the air was still fresh. But I knew who I was. And I was not one of them. I walked the earth, but I did not belong. I heard the call of the birds, but they didn’t call for me. I was a shell. Broken, empty, lost. Painfully alone. Not one person spoke to me. They had their families and friends and neighbors to talk with. They had their life and those who revolved in it. My world and theirs don’t collide. Even when I attend the same events they attend. I am a zombie. They live.
It was definitely chilly by the time I reached my house. There was no life emanating from my home. None of the energy I had felt coming from the other houses I passed. And so, I slipped soundlessly back into my dark world. My two girls greeted me with wagging tails. I held them close for a very, very long time.