Moments when I realize I am alone:
- Trying to apply sunblock to my back.
- Wrangling a new couch up the stairs to my apartment.
- Carrying all of my luggage to the airport bathroom because the overhead speaker voice says “unattended bags will be seized by police.”
- Coping with the death of a patient.
- Lying in bed, feverish, sweating and shaking from the flu.
- Lying in bed, with half the mattress cold.
I have office colleagues with whom I might grab a beer after work; casual acquaintances at the gym with whom I discuss the weather; a brother who cares deeply about me; and former professors who continue to mentor me years after graduating. But, truth is, I am alone.
As a youth, I had the usual cadre of classmates I knew simply because we had attended every grade together since kindergarten, but we seldom interacted outside of school. The acknowledged “smart kid” of my class year, I was known by all and befriended by none. I was not particularly nerdy or aloof; I just spent most of my leisure time reading and writing in my bedroom. Getting smashed at a Friday night party didn’t appeal to me as much as lying on my bed with a box of Goldfish crackers and a new book. There was one boy my age who would come over to my house. His name was Travis, and he was the only kid in school whose vocabulary rivaled mine. We became bibliophile buddies and would quiz each other on collective nouns (a group of ravens is called…?), yet I always kept a part of myself distant, as though I feared giving another person full knowledge of who I am, lest they dislike what they learn. Travis and I attended separate colleges and grew apart. We intermittently communicate to this day, but our meetings are rare, as we live 2000 miles apart and both lead busy lives. Since Travis, I have made only one other friend: Stephanie. We were roommates in graduate school and became extremely close. Last year, she died.
As I write this journal entry, I wonder if others struggle to make and to retain friends. What is a friend, after all? How do friendships form, and how do they endure? I think I’m a friendly-enough person. I am kind, lighthearted, and dependable. Wherever I go, I quickly accrue workplace relationships and professional network connections. But, when the week is done and the crystalline quiet of a winter night arrives, I am alone.