In Blackest Night – I Walk The Lonely Road
As I’m writing this opening, I’m sitting in a soft play venue–the kids are running around and having fun, expending whatever energy they have. I dug out my laptop and My-Fi device as I couldn’t find the Wi-fi password and my social anxiety prevents me from mustering the courage to get up and ask. I feel pin prickles all over my upper arms and shoulders at what people may be thinking–a grown man on his laptop in a child-centric place. But I must write and write I shall.
I’ve frequently averted my gaze to the slides and climbing meshes etc. scanning the room to figure out where my kids are and make sure they’re OK. There are so many kids it’s hard to make out but I never seem to fail to locate Talia (my middle child). She’s here with her two sisters and two cousins (I’m here with my wife, brother and sister-in-law. The lonely figure wanders from slide to slide, step to step…and I can’t help but feel pure recognition. Recognition that not only is “That’s my daughter”, but that was and still is me.
As a child, if I had no friends to play with or they had gone in but I was still allowed out, I would run around and keep myself entertained. From wandering around a dark and ancient graveyard to tearing around the woods on my bike or on foot (often pretending the Predator was up on high…watching me…hunting me). I look at Talia and I see me.
I have always been the odd one out, to a degree. I’d fit in where I could/wanted to/be let to. If I had no one to play with I would amuse myself, letting my imagination run wild. A luxury that kids today don’t seem to have. Or at least a much dampened sense of that liberty I once took for granted. Perhaps that’s why she infuriates me so much; I can see a younger, much more female me and don’t want her travelling the same path. Perhaps I’m romanticising such a nonsensical notion.
I feel sadness wash over me as she dawdles from one spot to another with no one in tow. But why? She’s enjoying herself and doesn’t seem to have a care in the world as she breezes through the various activities and amenities. She occasionally pops back to ask if she can have a ‘slushy’ or some other confection. I ask her if she is having fun and she tells me “No”. I ask if she has made any friends and she tells me “Nobody wants to play with me”. I tell her that she looks like she’s having fun, especially coming down the slides and then her face lights up. She grins as she points to the biggest slide right at the back and tells me she wants me to watch her come down it. As she leaves, my eyes feel like they’re about to leak. She has her big sister and her cousin all playing on the same things but they seem to go off on their own, leaving Talia behind.
Perhaps the sadness is the fact that my feeling of being completely alone despite being surrounded by people is perfectly captured visually by seeing her. As I write this, the feeling of isolation intensifies as if I hit the nail on the head. The neurological equivalent of hitting one’s ‘funny bone’, I guess.
Since childhood, I have randomly looked at people and felt a pang of sadness. My earliest memory of this happening was when I was on holiday with my Mum and her partner. We were staying in my Uncle’s caravan and we had gone to the hydroelectric dam in Pitlochry. There was a small cafe with seating outside and, as we walked past, I remember seeing an old man eating a sandwich with (who I presume was) his wife. They seemed like a normal, elderly married couple but I can still picture him with mayo or salad cream on his cheek. It sounds stupid to say aloud or write it down but it has stuck with me to this day. For reasons unknown, even when the people have no visible problems etc. I feel sad for them. Perhaps it’s some weird ability to tune into their auras or perhaps my empathy chip is faulty.
Watching Talia wander round on her own brings all those memories and feelings back and I can’t shake them. As much as I say she does my head in and how naughty she is compared to her elder sister, there is a part of me that feels extremely saddened and there’s no amount of thinking that will get rid of it. Even as I type this now, back at the bungalow at 23:20, the sadness feels like it’s going to consume me as she lies next to me on the sofa with her feet tucked under kine to keep them warm and we watch Family Guy together.
Perhaps the lonely road I continue to walk has room for two.