Sunshine, Scenery and Silence

Because I’m British, and because it’s been unseasonably pleasant out lately, I’m obliged to first mention the weather. It was warm when I left my home in Greater London to head to Gatwick Airport and it was warm every day while I was in Northern Ireland. It was only three days, and was turning grey as I left, so it’s not actually a full-blown harbinger of the apocalypse, but if I hadn’t mentioned it I’d have had to revoke my rights to British citizenship, and I like being an English boy: the accent makes me attractive and likeable to foreigners and the passport grants me so much obscene respect in every part of the world that I’m starting to wonder if everyone thinks English people all have royal blood and a penchant for colonialism. Anyway, I should probably move on before this turns into the ravings of a hardcore BNP activist and I start slurring ‘God Saves the Queen’.

I was staying with my American friend whom I was housemates with during spring 2011 while we were both at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. One of the friendliest, most interesting, most fun guys I’ve ever met, but I’m not going to talk about him because, short of a few passive-aggressive tweets, I don’t mention other people online. Not friends anyway. I don’t mind mentioning random old people who smile at me through broken teeth on buses, because they were fleeting moments; I’ll never see those people again and never knew their names let alone took their email or postal addresses or the middle names of their nieces. In terms of people actually in my life, I’d be perfectly happy if nobody knew I had any friends or acquaintances or tortured hostages I’m holding for ransom anywhere in the world.

What I will say, however, is that I find him incredibly easy to talk to. More so than anybody else I know. Spending time in his company is never a chore, it never stresses me out, and I never feel like I need to keep the conversation flowing. For example, on my second full day in the country, we walked thirty minutes away from campus and onto a beach. We chatted while we walked the beach, chatted (and grimaced) while we climbed barefoot along the rocky pier-type thing heading out to sea, and we chatted while we sat in the dunes. Walking back along the beach, however, I walked fifty feet ahead of him, with the freezing surf numbing my feet and ankles; we silently agreed it was a personal, important and silent moment for the both of us. After a blissfully slow mile, he caught up with me and we started talking about something – music, I think.

It should have been perfect. Bar the people I’ve only known for a few weeks and so haven’t found their little faults yet, or the people I have perfect enclosed memories of from one- or two-night stays in places (I miss you, Molly!), he’s the person I like the most in the world. So it frustrates me that looking back on that sunny afternoon on a Northern Irish beach, I wish I’d been alone. As celebrating of the solitary life as I am, I love company as much as the next person, so long as it’s the right company. But when it comes down to it, my strongest and fondest memories are all from times when I was alone: hiking in the mountains around Salt Lake City, Utah, or eating chicken, chips and rice in a tiny Bolivian backwater street-side restaurant.

I’d like to get married and have kids one day because I’m sure I’d make a loving husband and a great dad and, despite my cynicism about the world, I would love more than anything else to bring another little person into it. But I still feel like being alone is more important. I know that’s not a normal feeling to have. Seems to me that most people believe that finding that one someone to share your entire life with and procreating with them is the goal we should strive for in life above all else. I understand that, and I know why people say it, but I truly believe I will never agree.

I like people, I’m attracted to people sexually, romantically and spiritually, and I can love people, but I could never devote myself entirely to one person. People much older and wiser and with more hair than me might say “you haven’t found the right person yet”, or, “just wait, young one, and all paths will be revealed,” or, “shut the fuck up kid, you don’t know jack,” and I know that I’m still young and with many, many years of greatness and failure ahead of me, but that unconditional devotion is so far beyond my capacities as a person I might as well go live with the crabs in a cave under a lighthouse now.

Like I have every day for the last several years, I’ll get on with doing what I love, experiencing new things, fucking up and getting fucked over, and trying to work out where I best fit in the world. I might end up as the crazy old guy I’ve met so many times in my life: travelling alone across country and continent with no one to share my stories with apart from backpackers literally carrying their lives on their shoulders who have no idea where they’re going, or why, or what they’re going to do when they get there. I’ve met that old guy so many times, but he never has the same face, and never from the same place, and he always has something new to say.

Or I might one day, possibly, hopefully, find someone I do want to share my life with, and who wants to share their life with me, and also understands that I have to have moments to myself. Important moments on beaches and in mountains, away from everything. Moments that don’t need to be met with an, “Are you okay?”, because yes, I’d be fine. I wouldn’t be cheating on you, I wouldn’t have accidentally suffocated the dog in the car, I wouldn’t be imagining our son’s hot young French teacher in a maid’s outfit; everything would be perfect in my life, but only because I’d met and married the person who understood me completely.

Whatever path I end up treading, one thing’s for sure: I’ll have made the most of my time. I’m not going to bow out with a whimper. I see people fifty years older than me who have nothing to show for their time, and it’s not because they’ve not been given a fair chance in life (disability, growing up in a tiny African village in the desert), it’s purely because they just haven’t cared enough about being alive. We’re born and we die, and maybe we get reborn or lifted to a higher spiritual plane or whatever else you want to believe, but whatever your take on things, there’s no fucking reason not to care that you’re alive. It makes me sad that so many just “get by” without even trying to change anything. Life is beautiful, guys, really beautiful.

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