The one thing I had learned about being alone, or loneliness—semantics anyway—was that there was peace in camaraderie. It did not matter where you found it. They often say beggars could not be choosers—you had to take it to heart. If you craved a smile, you had to befriend your barista, and if you wanted to talk about ideas, you had to take the word of your cab driver. It was a luxury to want a specific kind of person and them being available at all times for all your needs. It was an impossible expectation from even the kindest, most well-intentioned of friends you had.
Perhaps, this is why I walked as much as I did. Back when I was studying, living alone then as I am now, I would get ready in the evenings and visit the crowded sectors, the markets, and the malls. I’d spend the entirety of my days there, going in and out of coffee shops, making small talk with the baristas who at some point recognised me, my regular orders.
Just so they did not forget me, I would change my regular order now and then. It kept things fresh, naturally, but it also gave me a different talking point. Sometimes, I’d order a hot chocolate instead of an americano. They’d ask me why, and I’d tell them I was a little under the weather. Then, we’d talk about how the winters were colder that season. As if that wasn’t something people said each year, a constant repetition of how things were getting worse with no proof in hand.
To this day, when I feel the loneliness engulfing me, my only instinct is to go out, even if no friends are available to grab a bite or drinks or coffee, and even if the family is busy. Although, family is rarely busy, especially if there’s love. I believe I could not change this about myself now. I was accustomed to this managed loneliness. I needed everything in moderation—other people, myself, silence. The streets were my cave to retreat to.
You were not always in luck, though. I left my flat to walk the other evening. I couldn’t see much in the shadows, but there was a sheet of rain under the street lamp that told me to rush back home. It was the only conversation I was granted that evening. It would have to do, I thought, and I walked back home.