I wrote this in February 2017 while I was on vacation with my mother in Cuba. I’m pretty sure I was on a beach at the time. The piece is inspired by a writing prompt in Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones.
I am too familiar here.
I say to him, “Use loneliness. Forget about putting on a smile at least not until you have used loneliness. Remember the feeling of empty nausea rolling in your gut, think about how your boyfriend left you, your sister doesn’t call you, how no one gets you, how your parents fight around you, and use that loneliness.”
“What can I do with my loneliness?” he asks me. He calls himself a fat-ass as a joke every day. He doesn’t fool anyone. His eyes bleed longing.
“When you use loneliness, you are taking the broken-down forest and building a fire.”
I am conscious of myself in my long sleeve blouse and jeans.
“Each log you move, that is you deciding to care. Use caring. Use yourself. Using is active. It is contemplative and strategic. The first step is feeling hurt because this means you have a heart that can break and be mended. Next is to get angry. This means you know you deserve more. Then you get passionate which means you are willing to fight. And then you become thoughtful. This means you care about others and do not want to hurt them. This is the evidence that you can love and are lovable. Each movement is a log, each day a bit of kindling. This is how you use loneliness. You have made yourself a way to start again. And you have given yourself the fire to destroy and the stability to build.”
“I am not strong enough to use loneliness,” he says. He has shrunk in size now. There are cracks in him.
“Hey, that is not fair. Look, I’m sorry, I forgot a step. The actual first step is to breathe, to walk, to sleep and to eat. This is how you tell yourself that you still care about your life. You won’t even realise you are doing it. You are doing it right now. Strength is measured by your commitment, it just means that you beat the odds and show up.”
I am not sure whether he is growing or I am. I hope he hears me. He seems so far away.
“The final step is to light the fire. You spark the kindling into a flame by asserting everything you learned as you built the fire. You say it out loud to yourself and to others. Just admit that you know that you matter and that you are strong. Stop fighting it. Just live your truth. This is how you burn the bad and make room for the good. You simply move forward, plant your feet and tell the truth.”
I am not sure if this metaphor will do anything. I think he likes loneliness too much.