In “Married Men” (a previous piece), I thought I was writing about how dangerously sexy I was, and how vigilantly moral I was, but as an astute reader pointed out, I was actually writing about loneliness. I couldn’t put the loneliness right out there, because if there’s one thing that’s not sexy, it’s loneliness. I would definitely like to be thought of as sexy, whether or not you find me moral.
In my sexy/moral piece, I wrote about drinking in bars, because drinking in bars can be sexy, and it provides opportunities to act morally. Not stick-in-the-mud morally, but my favorite kind of morally, both relaxed and firm.
What I left out of the essay (among a million other things) was how depressed I was, trying to talk myself into going out, stuck in those hotel rooms. Being in a hotel room alone is a great environment for depression. Hotel rooms are the Chinese bamboo to the panda of depression. It was hard to leave the room and go sit in a bar alone. It required lipstick, a very good magazine, and my tallest shoes to escape that panda.
Yet I believe in being alone. There’s an honesty to it. I enjoy my own company a lot of the time. I suspect people who can’t stand their own company are running away from something. See how moral I am?
There was another evening in New York that I was alone: I called my friend from the bottom of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. Could he go to the theater that night? No, he had to work late. It was fine. I bought a ticket to the theater anyway. I took subway back uptown, put on a beautiful dress, went into an Italian restaurant and ate. Decided to walk to the theater, save the subway fare. I frequently blow all my money on entertainment and then walk the health out of my feet.
I would like to say it was all lovely, my favorite food and wine and dress and then a show I enjoyed very much. I smiled and laughed through the play. I went for a walk afterward, further downtown, and called my brother back home. I sat on the steps in front of the public library lions and we ended up talking about my dad. My brother’s adolescent struggle with our father is in progress, as my own fades into mythology. I told my brother, you don’t know how I fought dad. I fought him so hard. And then I was grown up, and I could stop.
I walked around Manhattan for a while longer, through Herald Square, around the Empire State building. Instead of getting a drink, I walked back to the hotel, walked the whole way. This night was a peaceful kind of loneliness, with a little joy in that the city was so beautiful, dark and lit up, and the weather was so lovely, that you knew if someone else was with you, he might ruin it. He might be in a bad mood, or want to go home, or be afraid to walk the city at night, or be bored, or want to go to a loud bar, the kind with music so loud you have to shout, as if the reason you went out was to primarily listen to canned music scream in your ear, rather than speak with the people you are sitting next to. I walked from 34th Street all the way back up to 79th, and then went to bed.
The only reason I can use this anecdote in my exposure of loneliness is that I wasn’t really that lonely. I was at a mild level of lonely that you won’t feel sorry for me or worry about me. See, I have a brother. And I am very concerned about him, and important to him, and he needs my wise counsel! And I have a friend, I have plenty of friends, lots of friends! It was just that my friend had to work late, see!
If I put in the real grind of loneliness, from another evening or another moment, I would have to wad it up and hide it in cavalier language or contrast it to the real me, which is of course very cheerful, someone who always has a pal around to buck her up, or doesn’t ever need one. It would be less shameful for me to write about a drug habit, or a stint of crime, than to admit, simply, that I was lonely, and would have lunged at a morsel of conversation like a stray dog. But it always arouses my attention when people tell the truth. It happens so rarely. Even among us highly moral folk.