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Friday, October 22, 2004

that terrifying possibility of being utterly alone.

I gave me away
I could have knocked off the evening
But a lonelily landed my wants in her hands
In a way I felt you were leaving me
I was sure I wouldn't find you at home
And you let me down
Could have knocked off the evening
But you lonelily let him push under your bone
You let me down
It's no use deceiving
Neither of us wanna be alone

"Lonelily" Damien Rice

the elderly have come up in conversation frequently over the past few days. in one conversation, i discussed with a friend how they are annoying. always driving slow when you prefer to be going fast, and otherwise being cumbersome to your plans or desires. we were really half joking though. i mean, we talk a lot of smack about old people but only when they're little bumps that are barely visible above the headrest of the car in front of you. then they park or you pull alongside. and you see that they're grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, brothers. usually giving that pleading look, thin hands gripping the plastic steering wheel: i'm in a world that no longer wants me.

in college, i joined a volunteer club. they set up sites around town that college students would visit to do whatever it was that made them feel better about being a drunk on their parents' dime. i went to volunteer only once. i woke up that morning very hungover but still energetic enough with youthful enthusiasm. my roommate wasn't so eager and decided she'd rather remain in bed. i hated the idea of going alone, but i went anyway. it was about a two mile walk, and it was weird, a freshman in college--new to independence--to walk such a distance by myself.

my site was the local hospital in the geriatric ward. the terminally ill. or maybe it was just those that couldn't afford to be in a real nursing home. they didn't seem like they were on the verge of death, but what did i know. i just remember the intense discomfort of the whole thing. and i was miserable at hiding it. yet they were still happy to have me. to have me awkwardly pass out the lyrics to Yankee Doodle and other old wartime dixie tunes so that they could sing along with the karaoke machine. i don't even remember if they sang. i just know that there were so many of them, wheelchaired and planted in lines to fill the room. i left early without saying goodbye to almost anyone.

i shared this story with my co-worker (yes, the married one) and he sympathized with a chat about his recently widowed grandfather. it was great to see him smile in exchange for a visit, yet just as completely heartbreaking to see a smile that big for something so small. it's almost more painful to see that joy than to deal with complacency. why do you think we get that way around them? he asked me, sincerely. i wasn't sure, but maybe it was death...and as soon as that answer fell from my lips, i knew it was more. we looked at each other, seeing if the other's eyes held a clue.

i think it's the lonliness...


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