Sitting, eating a salad, just me, with the mushrooms and raspberries and the balsamic vinegar. I place my heart on the table as I try to cut it up into little pieces for my salad and my dreams.
I dream of friends. I used to have friends. I mean, I do have friends, but no one is around for they all have moved away. Far away. Far, far away, where the pain goes.
It hurts. Sometimes, yeah, it hurts to be alone. Yet, with that time spent by myself, I grow, and I learn. What I discover about the world makes me realize how I’d like to see it, and fit in, and harmonize with it, rather than thinking that I’m some island.
I’ve been a loner for most of my life. The early years weren’t all rainbows and butterflies, yet there was community on our block. It was a city street with a small town feel, where people really knew you… and your grandparents, and your aunts and your uncles. Even your cousins were known by the neighbors. And we all looked out. Went over to the Perri’s or the Giordano’s, or upstairs to our tenants, who were like our extended family; it was like having more brothers and sisters, and having another set of parents.
Coming and going; no knocking.
Right before my fourteenth birthday, my parents thought it would be a great idea to get a bigger house with a in-ground pool and two driveways. There would be no more sharing a driveway! (This was astounding for a Brooklyn family. Brooklyn: where you have to drive around the block for twenty minutes to find a parking spot.) Having two driveways and an in-ground pool was something, I think, my folks thought was like hitting the jackpot.
It wasn’t. It was like having to pay a fine.
Staten Island, although one of the boroughs of NYC, is not Brooklyn. No way near it; it’s like the second cousin from some uncle whom you never see. And you never see them because they live way up North; Upstate, close to Canada. Staten Island is a world in of itself: isolated and disconnected. The train doesn’t go to the city from Staten Island. It was an island, yet you couldn’t swim at the beaches. And boy, let me tell ya, was it an island; a flooded, washed out version of New York City.
The kids at my new high school were wearing clothes that I wore two or three years back. Even though Staten Island was just a short distance from my beloved hometown, the way these kids spoke was different. Not that Brooklynites have the greatest accent (I do love it, though) but there’s this twangy, lazy mouth born and bred on Staten Island. One of the many things that I felt that kept me in the Loner status.
So, I was a snob. I thought I was better (I wasn’t). I knew I was different and made it a point by remaining unique in a world devoted to striving for sameness.
However, all I wanted was to have some friends. People made fun of me… bad, but I didn’t care because I was different and they all looked the same. I wore Creepers and dyed my hair blue (this wasn’t as common as it is today); I wore shorts with tights; I wrote poetry to heal; I listened to music no one ever heard of. But, overall, I think I thought I was better because I didn’t make fun of people. I saw people as tiny, different orbs circumnavigating our silly high school world. I just wondered: why couldn’t we get along, even if we were different? In the end, we’re all alone, really. Some just don’t want to fess up.
But still, I had become a loner for that first year of high school, and for the rest my life. Sure I’ve had my crews, groups of friends, all kinds of folks yet, I always felt alone. However, I never deemed this as weak; I’ve done all kinds of things alone, and happily so, especially eating salad. It’s okay. It wasn’t a problem going to a show, a museum or wherever, on my own. If nobody wanted to go, I’d say fuck it and go on my own. I traveled all through Europe alone and met some wonderful people. I’m not too sure if I would have been so open to my new friends if I had some old friends with me.
So, it’s okay to be alone. To feel alone. It allows growth. It forces us to see ourselves as we are: Alone. Alone, eating salad. Alone, dreaming. Alone, singing in the shower. Alone, walking in the wind. Alone, with balsamic vinegar. Alone. Born that way. It’s in my blood. And I’m fine with that.