Loneliness, Happiness (Or: Internal Dialogue in a Coffee Shop)

I know the feeling of having nothing to say, is what I want to say to the couple sitting in front of me, tired faces staring blankly at an unfamiliar menu; a newborn baby, so young it’s still wrinkly, silent in the pram beside them. 

I know the pervading loneliness of not being able to pinpoint where the loneliness comes from. Of a partner, supposedly there to pick up the slack, not being able to contribute anything to the dynamic. Of not even wanting that partner to do so. These are the early days, when things have gone awry and you’ve lost your bearings: a foot in the air, your head underground. 

So here is where the years have led us, they seem to say, moving their eyes from their menus to their phones. Here is where our first kiss, our first night together, our first fight, has led us to: planning a barbecue neither of us have the enthusiasm for. But we make an effort anyway, and during the party we will be happy, or at least project happiness.

Short sentences: “We have to register the baby”; “You’ll have to pick up the wine”; “We really should try to” … and that last sentence gets lost in the sudden wail of the baby, an additional voice in the conversation now, and in the years to come.

In the years to come. In the years to come, the husband will jostle for attention, an actor without lines in the play he’s a part of, staunchly trying to elbow his way onto the stage. And the woman: how much will things change for her, from her body to her desires to her priorities. Somewhere along the way they will find themselves again. It will jolt them awake from their stupor. They will look down at their hands and see something, and their fingers will close around it, fashioning it into something that will resemble, and eventually be, happiness itself. They will cradle it to their chests and protect it like they did their newborn, but it will be a selfish act this time, aimed to please and nurture no one but themselves. It will be well-deserved. It will be less than what they thought they could have. It will be just as glorious as they remembered it being.

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