It’s TGIF evening at The Wedge, parfait pink sky a soft, sweet backdrop to the industrial gravel parking lot scene.
I straddle a picnic bench, tulip glass brimming with Ginger’s Revenge, preparing to take my first sip, when, oh, no, glancing around from my solo perch, giant table occupied by none other than me, myself and I, I get that sinking, shrinking feeling inside that I am…nowhere, no one.
Look, I’m no novice at single-dom, quite comfortable venturing out and about on my own: Table for one, please. And in my new-found Ramblin’ Anne home of Asheville, I've felt quite at home, exploring the art studios and brew pubs and musical haunts of my River Arts neighborhood, settling into my little house on the hill, writing, cooking, practicing yoga on my living room floor.
Though there are these woe-is-me solo nomad days when I look around and find myself comparing with others more fortunate, more joyful, more ebullient – EVERYwhere. Gathered in twos and fours, with kids and dogs, they chat and laugh.
I grab my phone, rest it upright against the umbrella pole, and snap a few selfies to post on social media so I will feel seen – at least virtually. I shoot a video clip: “My favorite time of day…Cheers,” I smile at the mirror image of my glowing, baseball-capped self, raising my glass to virtual friends who may or may not like me.
Then, into my head pops The Bard, Sonnet 29, my mother’s favorite, the one she used to quote by heart; though I must look it up.
“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate…”
These words offer some kind of comfort, to know this feeling of separate is mutual, universal, which is what poetry can do – help you feel so not alone.
“Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed…”
Oh, the group of friends is up, now, playing corn-in-the-hole, tossing beanbags gaily in the air, the thwonk as they hit the board, the cheers and awwws rising from the small crowd.
“Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;”
I do enjoy my walks and bike rides along the French Broad, scoping out cideries and wineries and breweries, one per capita, it seems, in this crafty place – meeting people here and there. Yes, I love to meet new people. But then they disappear. Or do I?
Ugh, no, have I become my mother, so terribly comfortable on my own, protected from pain of loss and disappointment?
“Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;”
Thee. Who was this thee for Mom? Was there a someone for whom, just the thought, lifted her spirits? She’d been 20 years divorced from my harrowing father; it was not him. Was it beloved daughter, me?
“For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.”
Nah, I prefer to think it was a secret someone Mom kept in her heart all to herself, someone from her youth, or much later, her freedom days of late middle-age.
And what of me? Where is my secret person, just the thought of whom elevates my state to a heavenly place, someone to sit beside me and clink glasses?
Perhaps I best pull my face out of my phone and take a look around for them.
Straighten my spine, take a sip, lick my lips – a dog shows up, sniffing at my Birkenstock feet, it amber tail wagging, a lanky bearded man attached by the leash.
I smile upward, raise my glass. He smiles back, just as a woman approaches, stage left, hips swaying, and hands him a pint.
A train barrels by, sense of motion rumbling in my chest.
I take my final gulp and climb out of my bench.
Time to head home, methinks, and make some dinner: salmon will be a treat.