The other day, I went to the nearby café and sat by myself for an hour. There was no one else but me sipping coffee in the tiny patio. It felt nice. As I sat there, staring at the fresh monsoon clouds reflecting in my black coffee, it occurred to me: I had mastered the art of being a recluse in public.
I was around, always. You could often spot me with friends or by myself at any bar or café in any city I lived in. The bars I only frequented with friends. There was something terribly lonely about drinking alone, which, after trying for a while, did not sit right by me. Perhaps, it was in my head. The point being, I was out and about more often than I wasn’t.
Over the years, I had managed to slip in and out of all groups I had managed to meet. I was with the artists; I was with the hustlers; I was with the sullen. Yet, I was with none of them. In my quest to learn the ways of and understand all kinds of people, I had become a man of the world in my own way, and yet, I had managed to keep what made me myself.
I was a nobody. I didn’t want to outshine others. I preferred the lack of spotlight. There was something beautiful in being a blur amidst crowds. On most days, I shied away from making my presence felt at all. I could slip in and out of rooms on a whim. Yet, if I wanted to and if necessary, I knew how to direct attention towards myself. Although, it was rarely required or necessary.
I was the man on the window seat on a long bus journey; half-awake, half-asleep. I was the lone patron in a café, sitting and reading. You could see me, but I would not talk to you unless I wanted to. I was happy in my corner, hiding amongst everyone else. I never felt like I belonged anywhere. Yet, I could fit in everywhere, as long as I wanted to do it.
If you’d take my word for it: I wanted both ends of everything. I loved myself, and I craved other people; I wanted nothing, and I wanted it all; I wanted to stand out, and I wanted to fade away. I was by myself, and yet, amongst others, at all times.
I was an involved spectator. Sometimes, I wrote about what I saw. Often, I kept it all to myself.
It was an art, and I had, somehow, mastered it.