People think it’s the alone of being forever alone that hurts the most, but that’s not true. Everybody’s alone sometimes, whether for periods when they’re not dating anyone or just for a weekend while their spouse is at a conference. Alone is part of the human condition. It’s the forever that pulls down the corners of your mouth just a little bit when you give someone a smile meant to indicate that everything’s okay with you even though you want to scream that nothing’s okay and never will be. It’s the forever that tastes bitter in the back of your throat when you see a happy couple walking in the park or laughing in a restaurant. It’s the forever that has you wide awake staring at your ceiling into the wee hours of the morning.Forever alone.
There’s an ongoing half-serious claim in our culture that men think about sex all the time. Every 17 seconds or so. That may be true for some guys but not a forever alone. After awhile you stop being able to think about sex, at least the way other people do. You can think about it abstractly, or when watching other people perform a stylized version of it alone in your room while you use your hand to joylessly complete a sad shadow of the biological imperative, but you stop being able to imagine sex as something you could be a part of. You see a woman in the springtime, her midriff peeking out from between the soft cotton of a shirt and the rougher waist of a pair of jeans. You start to imagine her naked, constructing a fantasy in detail, the way her breasts would sit against her chest, the soft down or absence thereof on her pubic area, and then you try to insert yourself into her presence and the fantasy crumbles to dust under the weight of its own absurdity. You know there’s no chain of events, no course of actions, that could lead to that ill defined imaginary room where the two of you would meet in an act of carnal congress. There’s no way to there from where you are, it’s not even an alternate universe, it’s an inconceivable one. It’s like trying to imagine a world where everything else is the same except elephants float around like helium balloons and have to be anchored by their trunks or they’ll float away. An inherently absurd thought. That’s the idea of you and her being intimate. So you look away from that tiny sliver of skin, trying to keep your face from contorting in pain and bitterness. Where other men might smile at her you don’t, because your smile sucks, and you suck. Forever alone.
Eventually you don’t even bother to build the image only to have it blow it away like a sand painting in a tornado. You imagine lesser things. The brush of a cool, soft, feminine hand against yours. Mundane couple bullshiet like eating pancakes on a Sunday morning or watching a movie or just sharing your day with someone who gives a fuk and is not your mother. The other party in these pathetic little domestic tableaus is ill defined in your mind, because if you imagined her clearly enough to make her realistic then you know she wouldn’t want you. And even with this feminine blur, this placeholder, this blurry silhouette of nothingness you project your emotions onto, the person she’s with isn’t really you. It’s a better version of you, a thinner less obnoxious version who will control his temper before saying something cutting, who doesn’t geek out and talk too much, who is free from the flaws who make you who you are and assure that nobody else will ever want to share their life with that person. Then you realize that you’re fantasizing about an Archie Comics version of yourself making tomato soup for an undefined feminine projection blob, and you realize that even the part of you that creates these images doesn’t want to be with you and can’t imagine anyone who might. Forever alone.
Around you the world stays mostly the same. People fall in love, hit milestones, get married, have kids. You’re even jealous of the divorcees because you know that this is just a bump in the road for them, part of their journey. You’re still at the starting line watching them recede, wanting to chase them and catch up, knowing you never will. But while the world is almost static, you are aging. Moving through your life alone. You start to get bitter at the milestones you’ve missed and the chances you’ll never have. You see the graying of your hair and the years piling on like rust eating at the hull of a decommissioned ship and you realize that your opportunity for young love is already past. Even if you got it together and got in the game you’d just have a shot at middle aged love. It doesn’t matter if you think women age like a fine wine, what wine connoisseur wants to live his life without ever tasting the shocking astringency of the harsh tanins of youth. Even if that’s not your thing you don’t want to cut it off forever. But you have. You won’t even have memories of those very good years, as the song says, to keep you warm as you slide towards your dotage. All you have is your bursting store room of regrets and bitterness, and you can always cram in more. And you know that that rusty battleship will some day have a hole in its hull and be unfixable, good for nothing more than salvage scrap. You add up the time it would take to lose the weight, get your teeth fixed, figure out your professional career, the time until you can smile at that woman in the coffee shop with confidence rather than the stomach sickness of self hate, and you realize it all adds up to a very big number. Everyone thinks of themselves as eternally 22 but at some point you are forced to admit that you are 37 and half your life is over and the back nine of the remaining half is not a time when people finally get that whole dating thing right. If the window is not closed its halfway there and sliding fast. Forever alone.
All this breeds desperation and depression so you shove it back because you need to function, you need to keep eating and staying warm, you can’t just stop and feel. But your dam is fragile and it leaks. And when you see that girl whose hand you want to brush against, who could sit with you looking into your eyes through the steam coming off her coffee cup and just be, who could understand you (she probably couldn’t, but this is something men like to project on to women) you feel the dam start to buckle and the river behind it start to surge and you don’t want to break down crying in the coffee shop because that’s not what people do and if you can’t have love at least you can have dignity, or the appearance of dignity, or the delusion of the appearance of dignity, so you turn your face to the side, you hope and pray she doesn’t try to draw your attention (generally safe on that count, old chum) and you put one fuking foot in front of the other and continue down your sad and barren blighted path. Forever alone.