I hate visiting my grandmother’s house. Even as I climb the old lino stairs of the 1930’s build block of flats, you can smell the lost memories and dreams, deserted hopes and ambitions. they smells like boiled cabbage.
My Grandmother’s second marriage ended when her handsome Italian husband; 10 years her junior left her for another woman. That was the last time she loved a man and in all the time I’ve known her, I’ve never seen her laugh or smile. Not really. There is the sarcastic high pitched caw she emits when she finds something I say ridiculous and a forced baring of teeth at the camera, but not the wide eye clinching smile of the black and white pictures which decorate the old papered walls of her living room.
‘I hope I don’t end up alone’, I think, as I leave taking the stairs two at a time; glad to be outside again and free of the small claustrophobic flat.
But why is there such a stigma attached to being alone?
“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude….every human group is a society of island universes.” (Aldous Huxley)
There’s a sadness associated with being alone; old people in cafe’s holding mugs of tea with shaking hands as the world passes them by in twos and threes. A child playing outside her house with a stick and some dirt, looking up every now and then to the boys playing football on the other side. A scruffy dog wondering around the park.
It was Saturday night and I ended up at some club on the kings road feeling decidedly old (and middle class) amongst the swishey haired Arrabella’s and Annabella Bingley-Glocestershire’s dancing to Brittney and trying my very best to get as drunk as possible. There were fresh faced boys called Dominic and Harry with shirts tucked into their straight leg jeans and point shoes; a party full of young rich things without a care in the world. After a significant amount to vodka, I found myself in a cab with my flatmate and three boys. Rob, Fred and … some other. Atoms that had bumped against each other in the club and ended up somehow sticking and coming back excited about a ‘party’. I had a feeling that the boy stroking my leg was barely over 20. I was too drunk to care. Maybe atoms sometimes need to bump against each other just to know they aren’t alone in the world.
Back at our flat, the first vodka lemonade I poured was the last as I felt the night’s entertainment rise up in my throat and I ran upstairs to the toilet. With my bathroom swirling around me like a merry-go-round of toilet paper and tiles I crawled up the stairs to my bedroom. This atom had had enough. I closed the door behind me and collapsed on the bed waiting for the room to stop spinning.
The door creek open and I could hear one of the boys hovering in my doorway having a discussion with his friend about how they were going to get rid of the ‘other one’ (I later found out they tossed their friend out on the street. Nice)
“I’m so drunk.” I murmered as Fred sat down on the bed
“Shhhhhhh.” He said and tried to kiss me.
“Mate.” I sat up “I’ve just been sick!” that seemed to do the trick and Fred backed off, sighing and resigning himself to staring at the wall.
By the time I’d sobered up sufficiently it was already 4am. I squinted at the man in my bed, a scrawny but pretty faced thing with a cookie monster jumper and a small bump under his chin that told me he was probably fat once. Feeling fragile and tired I let him hug me.
With the night passing into Morning, Fred told me about how he used to be a rock climber and we talked about life, and rocks and how we were both shy and quiet at school. I was just starting to think maybe he wasn’t such a creep after all when he stroked my hair had said “I really want to see you again after this.” Then paused for a long moment and said “I love you.”
“Seriously? Does that really work?” I chortled and turned round.
Fred was very persistent. “I just can’t sleep… I have nightmares. I have cronic insomnia.” He said and I noticed he’s taken his trousers off.
Rolling my eyes I reached for the box of Valium by my bed. “Here.” I said. “Now go to sleep.”
The world is full of Freds. Islands wondering around on a Saturday night waiting to bump into something…anything! In their own creepy way, they don’t want to be alone either. Still, I’d had fun talking to him, and I remembered what the lost boy from last summer had told me about how he didn’t believe in relationships, just moments. Maybe some moments last years, others just seven months and some only a few minutes. Perhaps we are all islands, destined to be born and ultimately die alone but we can take these moments with us. Even if I do end up in a small claustrophobic flat in Hendon, I will remember these moments, and smile.
(special thanks to Adam who provided the Huxley quote and inspiration for this blog x )