This bottle of wine has been open for nearly a week, which is a perfectly legitimate excuse for drinking half a bottle of wine on a Tuesday night. Originally, that sentence included “alone,” but I realized that the phrasing implied the bottle itself was lacking company, not me. I’ll clarify – I’m alone. Just me, the glass, the coaster that has soaked up so many beverages that it’s permanently warped, and the laptop.
I don’t mind.
Sometimes it seems like engaging with the world to any degree requires a companion. I watched an episode of Parks & Recreation earlier where two of the protagonists went on a spur of the moment drive to the Grand Canyon. Later, I read French Milk, the graphic memoir of a young girl who spends a month renting an apartment in Paris with her mother. Every ten minutes or so, I skim through the lives of my friends on Facebook, where most occasions worth noting involve friendship or marriage announcements. These are but three brief examples from a day, a week, a life filled with the ceaseless cultural reminder that I’m not living unless I’m living it with someone.
I simply don’t think that’s true. Partially, I think this to retain my sanity, as I lack a significant other at the moment. Were I to abruptly draft a girlfriend from the ether, I’m sure I would recant with all the swiftness of a coursing river and fervently denounce loners everywhere. But that’s not the case. Instead, I maintain a stylish one-bedroom “bachelor” pad a good fifteen hour drive from anywhere significant. If you ever want to test the limits to which you’re comfortable alone, move far enough away from your friends that it becomes almost an imposition whenever someone invites you over. “I received your text, friend, and I would love to come hang out! Let me just gas up the huskies and start packing for the ten-month overland trek. You see, because I live in the Arctic Motherfucking Circle.”
I think life is just as worthwhile when it lacks the “with.” Sure, sometimes I stand at my apartment’s sliding doors, one hand pressed against the glass, wondering if someone out there is thinking about me. A single sparkling tear drains thickly through the stubble crusting my chiseled jawline. But the other half of the time I’m having a great damn time. I resent the notion that noteworthy adventures require a companion. Today after work I hiked through a desolate prairie, admiring the low, dense clouds hovering over the golden grains as the sun anxiously tried to warm my shivering husk. Occasionally, I stopped at a particularly revelatory vista to read a chapter or two of my book, soaking in the scenery along with the words on the page. Towards the end of the hike, I crested a small wooded hill to find a rolling field of tiny, green sprouts arrayed in delicately curving rows. An intimate experience, just me and the art of nature. Better with? Fine without.
I’m not saying there’s a cultural stigma against an afternoon such as this. But I certainly feel a bit off, a bit noticed, a bit unnatural seeing a movie alone, for instance. Strolling through a museum without an arm slipped through my elbow. Dining in an upscale restaurant without someone across the table to taste the thinly sliced offering on the end of my fork. I’m not immune to society’s quiet pressure to not be that strange lonely guy. That’s not who I want to be perceived as. I want to be that mysteriously good-looking young man who really seems to be enjoying that steak/admiring that Magritte/laughing at that comedy. I want to be that guy who is having an adventure – you can see it, you can sense it. Sure, he’s alone, but something is up. This is just a stop on the greater journey. He’s going somewhere, for sure. And it doesn’t matter whether he’s going there with someone.