You are not alone. You are here. Please find a seat. Where ever you would like. Would you like a glass of water? Here is the person that will help you. He is balding. He is visually submissive, so submissive that in fact he neither smiles nor frowns at you. You know people that have this sort of face that is neither happy, nor sad, but just neutral. You like neutral. He wears glasses, so you deductively assume, perhaps on false premises that all people who wear glasses are educated. He crosses his legs. He chews on his pen. He neither puts you at ease, nor composes an authoritative posture or demeanor that causes you to feel threatened. You are nervous but ready. Here it lies open in front of both you: your personal account book. Here is a certain amount of pity within your scarcity of self-esteem. Perhaps you are spending too much here. Your troubled eyes weep and are as bleak as overdrawn accounts, negative in their bloodshot I-did-not sleep-last-night numerical sense, if one could actually establish a certain parameter within this calculation. This is where you are now: You sleep the night against the thoughts that dwell within shadows, the thoughts that have no balance, no quantitative quality, held in abstraction, no unit of measurement, but regardless of their abstraction they still instill a certain fear and worry within you. You think you are alone. Your stomach turns. You are an accountant who has discovered a miscalculation within his numbers; who returns and devises methods of keeping track of these withdraws and debits of thought, and the endless yawns, deep and wide, under the midnight, when nothing arouses within the intervals between the settling of the house. Your mind creaks in unison. And still you know that in order to have psychological wealth, you must gather and save for those days, those worn out days where what you believed to be your low, was merely a representation of the surface of your low. You have not quite reached it yet. Although your bones and muscles are tired today, this is not the low -your low. You have been submerged before. Don’t you remember? It’s like the hangover that you forget when you take that first drink in celebration, a misbalance of your personal accounts within the existential haphazard and mental expenditure of not being in the moment and actually breathing in the air. Inhale. Exhale. The air will keep you alive. In the back of your subconscious, that walled in room, the place that no one but you goes, like your own personal vault with no key, it begins to drop hints of its too-soon arrival. Here it comes again, as unexpected as emergencies and it blindsides you, suddenly, almost violently pushing you back into your place, the place where humility can’t rescue you. Your day becomes night. And your night lasts for weeks. You check your accounts and realize [your shock being well-rehearsed] you have overdrawn once again and that even your savings, the hope of the future, is almost laughable; and recovery will be as always: a long path held to the house, of unanswered phone calls, of sleepless nights and somnambulistic days. You are a nation in and of yourself that is psychologically helpless.
“So where do you think these lows, as you define them, stem from?” asks Dr. Steve.
“I don’t know. I have been really on top of keeping my life in balance,” you say. “I don’t drink anymore (which is sort of a lie, but I don’t overindulge). I try to eat well (another lie). I exercise (lie). I try to establish a routine within that pre-bed part of the evening. I read books that are so dense that my hands go numb holding them. It may be similar to a person reading a dictionary. I drink tea with no caffeine. And caffeine, I have cut back on coffee (lie), but it is difficult when sleep is scarce, and these thoughts return.”
You sit back in the contours of Dr. Steve’s leather brown chair. You sit back with your account book in front of you, the pages so naked and honest that it causes you to briefly sweat in the fact that you are being so incredulously honest. The leather squishes behind your back and beneath your legs. Your skin sticks to the leather. You feel yourself slowly sinking into the heart of the earth, beneath the crust and into the towering flames of the mantel. And here is Dr. Steve watching you slowly melt. Depression is strange. Even with the medication. Life becomes muffled and your eyesight, although you view the world, encompasses a field of vision within a perimeter that cannot or will not go beyond you. It is selfishness at its worst. It is a pit that is similar to those dreams where you cry out, but you have no voice. It is the helplessness of being locked in the self forever. The world, and all its disparity have a sort of reflective value or quality to it. It is you. You live within its worst extremes. Small moments become enlarged, so large that they eliminate you and take on your life. Life is held under an emotional microscope. The world is viewed through a funnel. There is an atrophy of response and reaction and you live guided by its will. You merely hold on, waiting for your life to return, but it won’t. It won’t. It is the silence that racks your brain with paradoxical slowly turning static. It is the silence behind the silence.
And you are not alone. You think you are alone, but you are not alone. You know people who are alone, but you are not like them in what you define as your ‘aloneness.’ They are alone and they are pathetic. So pathetically alone in the fact that they whine and complain and sort of set themselves up to be alone. Nobody wants to be around a complainer, especially a complainer that is lonely. You sometimes second-guess your capacity to entertain, stimulate others with your ideas, and invoke influence in dialogue in small groups settings and meaningful companionship in more intimate settings. Therefore you stay home. Perhaps this is why you feel alone. This causes you a great deal of anxiety, an irrational amount of anxiety in fact. But you are not pathetic. You don’t complain. You don’t speak in that mournful sad hopeless way saying, “I’m so alone. Nobody loves me. Nobody cares if I exist.” You know those kinds of people. They set themselves up. They quickly push their friends away. Nobody likes nor loves a complainer. You have friends. They love you. You have people you see, but perhaps you don’t see them as much as they would like. Often you find yourself ignoring their phone calls, their texts, and perhaps you don’t make that much effort in the idea of pluralized ideas and endless enunciations, anecdotes, small talk and air stirring silliness that result in that high pitched laughter that irritates you to the point of where you shudder with an almost feverish cold, a teeth grinding cold of nightmares, that leaves you with sweat streaming down your arm pits, urine stained sweat, moist pools that reminds you of why you do not wear white t-shirts, and prefer more natural and neutral tones. You are not alone. You can say you are alone again and again. Go ahead. Say it. But you know this is not true, because when you say it your mind your mind sort pans the gallery of faces that exist in your life, a sort mosaic of companions who have accompanied you on your travels, to dinners, to a movie, to a cup of coffee. Your mind is aware that your being alone is unfounded. It again reminds you of those brief still nights on the back of a porch with a few friends where you almost felt content, almost unaware of that compulsive voice in your head that tells you that you are alone, a soft halo of light from a nearly extinguished candle and the syllabic iambs of small talk. There are a lot of people out there that you converse with. If you were alone you would not converse with anyone and you would be miserable. We would not be having this conversation in your mind. If you were alone, which you pretend to be, a sort of faux recluse, you wouldn’t be having this conversation with yourself right now, you wouldn’t be going over this fear again and again every single time you were amongst people you know. You wouldn’t be here now as you sit having dinner with your friends contemplating your aloneness as you stab the tines of a fork while holding in your left hand a nice well sharpened steak knife in a really delightfully prepared grilled chicken breast, seasoned so well that it raises your delight exponentially, not a thought of your bubble like existence, your almost desperate wannabe existence as you call it as you place the flaking pale breast meat in your mouth and upon your tongue, as steam rises from each tender flaking morsel as you continue to cut away more and more of its meat again and again. They wouldn’t have called you. They wouldn’t have known you to even think of calling you. They think about you.
Okay so it is true that you prefer to be able to make the choice of not indulging in idle evenings over glasses of red wine, which might I point out that you really love, rather than it being obligatory, but you don’t want anyone to think you’re a dick, and so you end up pretending to watch the play-offs, faking your interest in small talk, what your plans are tomorrow, what you think about all the problems in the Middle East, the dwindling gas prices, politics … Oh God politics, what kind of skis and equipment is best for really really good snow, which there has been a lot of lately. But these idle merriments always end. You feel blessed as you walk out the door towards your cold car sitting under almost a full moon that shines upon its hood, like a reflection of a glass off a lake in the evening in the woods. You think about merriments that you had to almost pry yourself off the cushions of your couch to attend because you are just simply so lonely. Isn’t that a little dramatic? And it is in your goodbyes and see you next weeks that you think you are alone? Honestly when you leave events and social situations and you are in your car, and you are waiting for it to warm. And you don’t turn on the radio because it’s nice to have silence sometimes. And you warm up as you are driving the winding road home staying within the yellow lines because you never overindulge. Well you are alone here. At these times. And being alone at these times is perfectly normal, not dramatic. Not life ending. And to speak frankly you are not alone in your diluted irrational belief sort of way that you are alone. People think about you. These kinds of thoughts just stale you from the inside, pale any hopeful horizon in the near future, eclipsing all that is possible for you, laying down more and more distance between you and your relations to others. No you are not alone. Think about it. Hold that thought. Delay your observations because you are highly emotional and critical about yourself and this often obscures your rationality and distorts your factoid appearance when passing mirrors. You don’t like passing mirrors. You know this. Passing mirrors is like pausing to visually reassure yourself of every single fault that constitutes your existence, an existence of larger reflections. Listen to me. To you. Listen.
Michael Lambert is from mountains of Colorado and lives in a town of less than a 100 people at an elevation of over 8,000 ft. The nearest gas station and grocery store is 45 miles away. Without television or reliable internet, he has plenty of time to come up with stories. He is a teacher and an avid reader and writer. He also spends a great deal of time working on his cabin, shoveling snow, and cutting firewood. He is currently working on a novel. After an extensive writer's block, he is back writing. This is first publication in a long time.