I loved people. You may not have known this from the scowl upon my face, but I truly loved all kinds of people. This made me very alone, because I was always taking a step back and considering both sides. There was a wretched country and western song someone quoted in my face one time when I didn’t appear to want to take a side. The truth is, you can stand for nothing and go through life falling for very little. Always a few steps outside of the tribal fire, watching the active participants, sizing them up, and trying to figure out when to jump in and dance. And then, of course, you wake up one day and you are almost forty, and you have done nothing but watch others dance.
But, the truth for me is that I did dance occasionally, just enough so that someone who was bothering with attendance registered me as present. Being barely present for life and not there at all–these are pretty much one and the same, though.
I wanted to be a lot of different people. I loved soldiers and I loved the hippie types. I wanted to get involved with financial wizardry, fashion, art, music, municipal government and food when I finally moved to New York City. I even wanted to spend time living like a monk in a tiny studio overlooking Central Park. To be in the middle of one of the hottest spots to be, and not even being present, except in spirit. Of course, I never made it to New York. You have to sign on with a club that is very active and present with what they do, and get messy and dirty in the ways that they do.
I hated being poor, but I never owned much of anything when I did have money. I liked the idea of having nice things, but nice things were probably better left inside other people’s homes and museums. I just wanted to be as completely free as possible, and I probably enslaved myself a little more with each bid for freedom.
I liked the idea that words could be more for me than simply words. Except, I was generally unfaithful to the concept in practice. I made a lot of words, hoping that some combination of them would be the right combination key to unlock a great secret or mystery of the universe.
I was petty, selfish, shallow, egotistical, prideful, bitter, wrathful, lustful, full of drink and slow to forgive. I made three times as many enemies as I did friends. All of my vanity stemmed from a part of me that wanted to be flesh in this world authentically and not just a disembodied spirit propped up by a body. I wanted to know forbidden things, and was shocked to learn how easy it is to get burned. But, so many people I met were happy to be in the thick of the flames of their future perdition. They were unequivocally divorced and cut off from their Creator, and they liked it that way. Theirs were the melodramatic stories young adults have always told and dressed up in epic garb. The more routine and shallow their lives were, the more they tried to cloak themselves in epic garb.
Once, one of them called me a dud almost to my face. He was whispering it at a happy hour table to a lady who had taken a small bit of interest in me. She clearly valued his assessment and opinions of individuals, and stopped talking to me and inviting me to events after he loudly stated that I was a dud. I don’t think I was more or less of a dud than anyone else. I was just a man.
I was a lonely man.
I didn’t want to admit just how lonely I was. I was desperate and sad most of the time. I would jump too close to the tribal fire, get burned, and then jump back for months on end, opting to be merely an observer.
The world seemed to know where it was headed, but I grew less and less sure of myself. I couldn’t say for certain if I would be alive throughout the very day I was in. My health wasn’t poor, but my uncertainty was enormous. I was uncertain if I would die and go to heaven or die and go into the earth, or die and never be anything or anyone ever again. The cold comfort of atheism was too frightening. I wanted to believe that I would live on, but I didn’t want to know if I would live on in a happy place or not. I wasn’t a very happy person most of the time, and so it would naturally make sense to anticipate my afterlife not being a very happy place.