It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon here in Singapore. I’m sitting on my bed, waiting for my nails to dry. The third movie of the day just ended and the feeling hit me again. The one where I can feel the emptiness within. It’s like a tiny prick that begins the moment my heart starts racing with anxiety. My heart starts racing the second my distraction ends and I don’t know what to do with myself.
I don’t know how to be alone.
I’ve struggled since I was a kid. Even if I’m by myself, I needed to be surrounded by people. I needed everyone else’s existence to keep mine calm and sane. I’ve annoyed friends and family time and again, taking advantage of their niceness to keep them by my side. I never needed them to talk to me or pay attention to me. Just to be within my line of vision, let me know they’re here.
When I was a teenager, friends were abundant. Never a moment alone, I began to crave it. I wanted the silence of my room, the coziness of a book or the melody of my favorite song. I didn’t enjoy people. I hated the company. In a Myers-Briggs test, I was an introvert – stereotypically so.
But then I hit 20. I developed depression, again. The loneliness that came from being alone was like an icepick being driven deep into my heart. I needed more than just a human in the room. I needed conversation, warmth, attention. I needed to be acknowledged and loved every minute of the day. I dreaded going to the bathroom because I’m in an empty space by myself and the anxiety would drive me insane.
Then came the incredible 23. I met a boy, cute as a button. Loving, affectionate and never stopped paying attention. I’ve been in love with him for almost 3 years now. Every waking minute I’m not busy, I was communicating with him. We mastered long distance. I didn’t need him in the same room. Just his voice, his texts, him. He became my best friend, my partner in the literal sense of it.
But life always happens. Between us, I happened. And because of me, space happened. So, here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, all alone and I don’t know what to do with myself. We sometimes spend so much time in a relationship, we forget what we did before we met them. I’m sure I had empty days quite like this but I can’t remember them. I don’t know who I was before I met him. What did I do? What was my distraction? Who did I talk to?
I fidget. I continue to fidget. I can feel the anxiety build within me and I don’t know how to get through it.
Am I hurting because I’m without him or am I anxious because I’m alone?
So many people do it. In and out of relationships. Sometimes, just alone. They’re occupied. Their brains don’t crash at the idea of coming back to an empty house – and I have flatmates. I have a roommate who sits outside the entire day. But she travels and I come back to an empty room. I won’t have him to talk to. To fill my silence. How will I survive?
How do they? Do they all feel this way?
Is it something you learn to live with?
Does the silence drive you insane like it does me?
Does it make you cry with memories from as far behind as 20 years ago?
Does it make you miss the place that feels like home?
Does it make you miss the voice that gave you joy?
The arms that kept you warm?
Or do you feel nothing at all?
Do you just walk in, drop your keys, pull off your shoes and settle in? No sound but your own footsteps. Your breathing. The distant kid’s screeching laughter.
Do you ever put earphones on?
Do you ever turn to the door wishing someone would walk in?
I sit here sometimes. I have a huge window to my left that’s always shut, the curtains drawn. But I still hear the world go by. Honking cars, screaming kids, music from the apartment above. I hear my flatmate laughing with his girlfriend. The laundry tumbling in the washer.
And I realize the silence that surrounds me that I can now hear things that don’t involve me. It makes me feel more alone. More anxious. More lonely.
I put my earphones on. The happy songs remind me of my good days with him. It reminds me they’re possibly behind us. The sad songs remind me of the choice I’ve made. It is a hint of a future that I have to re-learn to live in.
Every lyric I hear, every joke I laugh at, every scene I watch continues to build slowly, step by step. I can feel it within me. Anxious.
Anxious that it’s so great. Anxious that it’ll end. Anxious that the end will mean a few minutes of quiet before the next one begins.
Anxious of the thoughts that come with the quiet.
Anxious of the memories I don’t want to re-live.
Anxious of the silence.
Anxious of the sounds.
Anxious of the world.
The never-ending reminders.
Anxious that in a world filled with people, here I am.
In this little concrete block that I slave my life away for.
Surrounded by the things that often bring me joy.
Anxious of being alone.