In March, a man tells me with a smile in his voice, “Sara, almost no one is on your level,” and while I can tell he means it as a complement about my intellect, all I can think is “how lonely.”
It is true that my brain works differently than many other people’s, that I am good at drawing conclusions long before some work their way through any of the evidence, that I can learn to hold seemingly disparate thoughts side by side in my head long enough so that when I lay them down on paper I can make them into a kind of whole. I can make a winter tree into a metaphor for loneliness, make a dream I once had into a kind of wound, make a man I had loved speak across seasons long after his body became ash.
But it’s not a gift to see the end of things before they occur. It’s not a gift to see the way that people might leave you long before they are actually gone. It is not always a gift to be right.
It’s not a gift to be right, I would tell him, when what I want most sometimes is just to be wrong. But he is already halfway gone and the phone shows “call ended,” and so I speak my last sentence aloud to only the empty kitchen where I am standing alone at a counter, in the house where I am alone, where I could scream or sing or swear and not be heard. I am not heard.
Last Saturday night there was a poet on a stage and he was saying into a microphone that “isolation isn’t safety, it’s death,” and I wanted to agree with him, to tell him how hard I had been trying, how hard I was still trying, but instead all I could think was that isolation isn’t safety, yes, but neither is other people. There is never anything safe about the heart. It is a thing that decides without evidence, leaps without looking, would lay itself on table awaiting the precision of knife and still, it would call it love.
And though I am good at conclusions I am bad at connections, the human kind. Because each time you open your heart it is risk, each time you open it, a gift you are giving, and if they decide to not to keep it, that piece won’t fit you anymore. It will never quite fit.
I can chart the arcs of things, plot their paths, all the shapes they might take, but I don’t want to keep knowing the end of the story before it comes. “How lonely,” I say, cradling the empty receiver.
But he is already gone.