This is the kind of night that many of my nights felt like as a teenager. Quiet, but with so much going on outside of me that I’m not a part of.
My roommates seem busy and have curled up in their room watching TV and playing video games and James is sitting at the desk that is comically small for him, hunched over his computer, trying to focus on schoolwork. So, I found myself lighting a candle, pouring a glass of whiskey, putting on some lo-fi, and opening a book. A common teenage ritual of mine (minus the whiskey).
At some point as I was reading, I heard a roommate tiptoe down the hallway and very quietly close the door between the living room and the hallway that leads to the bedrooms. A sudden pang of loneliness hit me then, which is unusual because I have done that exact thing on so many occasions. I know it wasn’t an unwelcoming gesture, just one of trying to hear the TV better. But for some reason, my heart still shook with the solitude it made me feel.
If I were a teenager right now, tonight is the kind of night I would have walked out of the house and across the street from my neighborhood into an undeveloped (but not for long) area full of dry, wild hills. What I called “my hill” was the one with the water tower on it. It was easy enough to access and I loved to go sit on that hill whenever I was feeling this way. Dirt, darkness, crickets, wind, and the sight of cars small enough for fairies on a freeway soothed me every time. I’d cry, I’d bubble with joy, I’d think there. I once brought a boy there but quickly realized I could never bring a boy to that place again. Memories of him could taint it. He’d only ruin the sanctity of it. So I went alone. Whenever I felt disconnected from the world or overwhelmed by it, I’d rush up to my hill and sit amongst the weeds and wildflowers and just… watch.
In my early 20s I found another place like that at an apartment building I was living in. It was four stories high, and we lived on the fourth floor. I lived in a loft there, with a view of the roof just outside my small window. Anxiety and suffocation and the lack of a wall to my bedroom pushed me outside onto the parking lot on the roof one night. I discovered I could climb down onto the roof and walk along the top of the building, creeping past people’s windows (and my own) until I came to a spot overlooking the freeway just next to my building. I’d sit on the edge (never with my feet hanging over the side with a drop – too much of a chicken) and just feel the cold breeze on my face. I’d stay there and cry a lot of the time. My panic attacks were at their fiercest at this time, and I had started to wither away in fear. Then, empty from crying, I’d sit and think about how empty I felt until the cold became unbearable. Then I’d sneak back into my apartment and up into my room above the living room, closing my curtains that acted as a wall. Alone again, but this time alone and baptized in the fresh air and night sounds.
Everything was so quiet in those high places. So quiet and so powerful. I felt small there, but in a way that made me love how big the world is. Like what I was feeling or experiencing could not go on forever – there was just so much out there.
Tonight I feel small in the scheme of the world, but too big to fit into the space I’m in. I guess essentially only leaving your house for groceries for the better part of a year (and counting) will do that to a person. I miss the freedom of the days before this. I miss those high places and fresh air and shivering until I couldn’t stand it anymore.
My head spins with what will come, and my heart just wishes I could escape to my hill and look at the tiny fairy cars far below me and know everything will be okay.