Alone, in this, together.

It’s the same old, corny trick. One your head plays on your doting heart. I am sitting at the back of an Uber, plugged to this song I used to like. We are driving through a beautiful, indifferent city. I am by the window, watching it all go behind us, magically overwhelmed by emotion. My throat tightens, my stomach rumbles, my head races and my eyes dampen. Is it a person? Is it the song? It is often the latter. But what is a love song without a persona? I sighed and let it in. It occurred to me.

I have these lucid moments at parties, between the sugar and the ethanol. At this one, I stopped to look around. It was the same old noise, the same old rush, the same old games. Not just the ones we were playing together. But the ones in eyes, in lingering stares. It was in the signaling, the pairing. Our little village, boys and girls. How many times had I witnessed it? I was bored. Who would it be today? This temporal lover and our brief, bleak doings. And why did I gather all these people if one of them could be enough? M.I’s lyrics in You’re Like Melody, My Heart Skips A Beat reappeared — “I’ve been lonely alone, I’ve been lonely in crowds”. I stared into space, into my own head, and it occurred to me.

I had been lonely alone. I had this crippling pain in my abdomen, as if the walls of my stomach were pegged, as if they were sown too tightly. No, not figuratively. And when I finally dragged my feet to the hospital, this doctor called it duodenal ulcer? Me? What? But I was happy to see the pain go. It had stayed for weeks. I had been alone in that big house, wincing, grimacing. I was not close to dying but I realized that if I had died, no one would have noticed. No one knocked the gate, no one called everyday. And then it occurred to me.

Later, I would find pain again. Pain I wasn’t looking for, that I hoped I would not find. They call it emotional pain, even though its symptoms are often as tangible as typical response to raging stimuli. This pain was disappointment, frustration. And no, it wasn’t that result, it was an email. A pretentiously couched rejection email. It was then that tears raced into my hot eyes. Why? Why would they do me like this? Why wasn’t I good enough? Why am I never good enough? What would I do now?

But I wiped my eyes before the sad, saturated performance. Not today. I would work it out, I would talk it out. But my mind’s knees were too weak from days and weeks of quiet, uninterrupted hustle. During my few breaks, I danced. Alone. Oh, I sometimes made videos on my IG stories — for people who could not be bothered. Or a few who often were. “LOL, are you okay?”

I would talk it out. But no one knew this story. I couldn’t talk about failing, I hadn’t talked about trying. I wasn’t really talking. And I had so much to say. All I had become this past year, I hadn’t really talked about it. I had pulled myself from pitch dark places, held many bull by their horns, dodged laser beams. I was doing so much, losing so much, winning so much. Ultimately, I was still standing. I was my own hero. My own. No one else’s. Not really. No one knew. So sometimes, I wanted a camera on me. Yes, watch me. I hate that this is going unnoticed.

I lay down a little longer. I snuck into that duvet, held my sheets a little tighter and sniffed. It hurt. I curved my body like a cold boy. But I was not being a boy, I was being a man. I felt no shame. Man wasn’t meant to do, feel all of this alone. It didn’t feel right. And I didn’t want motivation, I wanted a lot of listening, “well done” and “sorry”. I wanted to talk. There were so many people to call, but no one to call. I wanted it to mean something, but mean little. I sighed. It occurred to me.

I placed my palm on the curve in her waist. She quivered beneath me. We had found our rhythm, so every thrust combined to form a hurried dance. I was tired, but I was at it. My physicality unlocks it’s reservoir in those moments.

My body was present. My mind? I held her hands but not too tightly. I would have to let her go. I stared into her eyes but not too intensely. There wasn’t much to see. Or was there? I was towering but cowering. There was no straight pathway of truth in my head. If she had shone a light, it would have met many turns, loops and an eventual dead end.

Hell, I didn’t know the way myself. What was I doing? How I felt, how I feel these days, it isn’t even judgement. Just curiosity, dissatisfaction. Even after my quivering comes. After my quivering came, I met the rude clarity that follows these things. It occurred to me.

I had called to invite this other woman for this party. The same way I invited everyone else. Maybe. She was an exciting acquaintance. We had agreed to meet, catch up. “I don’t see why I should be at a house party, especially because my man is not in town…”, she replied. What? It’s a party for 30 other people. Hell, it’s a games night! Not an orgy. Your man? Who says that? Such an audacious, conceited, cringeworthy thing to say. So rude. So… arrogant. Iwo Olorun, the women you created are using very possessive pronouns for the men you created! We cannot have it. Muting them on Twitter is not enough, you must do something.

But in minutes, I was calm and understanding. I stroke my beard and smiled. I deleted my routine “make everybody get out” draft. It had occurred to me.

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