I arrived at my cousin’s home three days ago, bringing a bag of novels on my left hand and a flower on my right.
Her eyes were instantly fixated on the flower I was holding. She smirked at me, front teeth glimmering white, and then screamed.
She’s always been very talkative, my cousin. I told her that her tongue is a fist that jabs you in the ears every time she opens her mouth.
“Have a boyfriend now?!” she shrieked, excitement coating her voice, her face screaming red, veins on her neck swelling green.
I knew she would ask that.
“Oh, the flower?”
“Yeah, obviously I know you buy books, but why are you bringing a flower, someone courting you?”
Her sentences seemed knitted in a single breath.
“Nope, calm down,” I told her, wry smile on my face. “I bought it for myself.”
She calmed down and stared at me, nodding and frowning simultaneously, almost itching to say what a total loser I am, because who would buy a flower for himself/herself?
Well, I do.
She doesn’t know that my life has always been a summary of riding buses alone, going to places alone, eating outside alone, and having fun alone.
I have my friends occasionally (in my mind, I call us, as how Lorde writes it, “king and queen of weekends”), but most of the time, I am alone, because I understand we have our own lives now.
Being an adult is difficult. Survive if you must. Abandon all hope ye who enter here, as Dante puts it.
I write a lot about being alone. Most of them I don’t want to share because they seem peppered with awkward metaphors and funny observations about how people’s cheeks fire-flush when their partners arrive at their rendezvous (probably going to Sogo Hotel? No, stop judging), or how this little girl I saw at a bookstore picked her nose and sucked her finger afterward.
When you’re alone, you see everything, provided you switch your phone off.
I’ve seen how many people around a dinner table don’t talk to each other because their phones click and flash blue and white.
I’ve noticed how I unconsciously clean my shoes through the stiff and thick brushes on the sides of escalators — and that everybody does it, too.
I’ve noticed how I stare at people’s eyes so long, just to see how they react at random things. And when they catch me, they seem to think I like them.
That’s when I’d run away, as my own brand of paranoia creeps in. On my way home, I’ve noticed how many talented passengers there are who can make a gist out of a long story about their neighbors’ debts while on a 15-minute jeepney ride, defeating Hemingway’s brevity: “Susan’s a bitch; she’s got money for Bingo yet snubs me when I ask her to pay for the Century Tuna she owed me nights ago.”
Being alone, I realize I’ve grown to know more about the people and this place I have lived in for many years. I like the stir of society. The breath of the city. The coughing of the vehicles in traffic. Black air clouding the afternoon heat. Students on their way to lunch, sweat dripping on their faces. Poverty and luxury sitting side by side, demanding to be observed, demanding to be written about, painted or expressed until immortalized. Or until heard.
I don’t get to see these when I’m not alone, or at least when my phone’s on. That’s why being alone has allowed me to know my world more. And, most importantly, it gave me a license to study myself more, like digging the earth off my chest until I grab from my air sacs the answer to the question I ask myself all the time: Who are you when you’re alone?
Most of my relatives and friends tell me I’m so hard to be with (why don’t you like family reunions, why don’t you like to be with five or more people that long, why do new people scare you?).
Sometimes, I disappear all of a sudden, like a millennial’s virginity. But I do this because I want to know how I treat my own self when left alone, how I can be happy without a boyfriend texting me good morning messages when I know all too well that it’s morning (kidding, I enjoy these messages), and how I can be my own best friend.
I’ve learned how to treat myself, like buying cake and ice cream and eating it alone while reading or watching; dancing inside my room while my ears are buried on Melodrama or The 1975 album; playing the piano for myself, after playing piano for other people; spraying perfume for myself to sniff and not for someone else; cooking pancakes and average sunny-side ups for myself, after cooking for other people.
I’m not saying that being alone is oh-so-good and pleasurable all the time, because it’s not. There are times when the clouds form in my gut, and then the rain forms in my eyes, landing a typhoon on my cheeks and down to my pillows.
But that’s when I realize that my youth has gone missing. That I’m growing old, and growing old means mastering the deep contours of being alone.
It’s true: Being alone is hard. But because I’ve learned to live on my own, I’ve learned how to live with it. I like who I am when I am alone, simply because I don’t feel lonely.
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Daniel Cura Carreon, 21, is a student at Tarlac State University.
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