I worked on the Project for the first half of the day and then at the restaurant for the second half of the day and now, at 10 p.m., I’m at Redbar with my notepad, my first drink in almost a week, and it feels good to be writing, cathartic, and while the solitude here at the corner of the bar isn’t so different from the solitude of the coffee shop every morning, just a couple blocks down the road, it does feel haunted, ina w eird way, by this pernicious little thought—almost a conviction, in fact—that while I and all of the self-employed people at Pasion del Cielo at 8 or 9 a.m. are there alone because we choose to be, need to be, the reason I’m here at Redbar alone is because I’m condemned to be. Not as like a pariah or leper but because…what? I’ve got friends who reach out to do things, who invite me places, but there’s this idea I’m always grappling with where it’s like, “This is all a very elaborate courtesy they’re extending my way.” Like they’re only inviting me out or asking to come over because they’re being polite.
Which is nuts.
But! If I were at my apartment I’d be feeling the same thing. And, without being drunk, I’m feeling that temptation to snatch up my phone and start a text exchange with someone. This happens every night, this insecurity. This almost apologetic yearning for company. A desire to apologize to the open air for being the way I am and to have someone join me.
But in the morning it’s the total opposite. I want silence, routine, and I lose my cool if anything disrupts my plans or keeps me from getting things done.
Not the healthiest thing.
I’m reminded of a scene toward the end of Breaking Bad where Walter White, after being alone in a cabin for something like two weeks, hiding out from neo-Nazis, pays his handler $10,000 to sit with him for two hours. He’s so desperate for company.
My great aunt, Candy, was the difficult person in the family. Notoriously difficult, mean, impossible to please. Manipulative and abusive to her sister (my grandmother).
She was like this her whole life, but it got worse as she got older.
She had a room at the back of her house that she rented out to a young, considerate, married couple on whom, despite their mannered appearance, she would eavesdrop every night, convinced they were up to no good. When at one point she heard them fucking at like 10 p.m. on a weeknight she made a whole show of it. Threatened to kick them out if they had sex again.
She made a voodoo doll of my father and buried it in the back yard. Her sofa was covered in plastic and she had a weird dog named Cookie.
Then one day she had a stroke, went to the hospital, and when she woke up after a long rest, and was questioned by nurses, she started spouting venom. Obama was president at the time and a nurse, checking to see if Candy’s mental faculties had been damaged, asked her, “Candita, who’s the president?”
Tia Candy jutted the question away with a karate chop. “Un negro.”
The doctor heard about this and, when my dad went to confer with him, said, “I’m afraid there does appear to be signs of cognitive damage.” He recounted that and a few other episodes, some scathing remarks, and said that they were commensurate with the temperamental changes a stroke victim sometimes suffers.
But my dad shook his head. “No, that’s just her.”
The stroke appeared to’ve caused no serious damaged, and so they decided to just keep her overnight for observation. Told my dad to come back in the morning to pick her up.
She had several small strokes in her sleep that night and didn’t wake up.
I went to her funeral with my dad and grandma.
We were the only ones there. A bereavement of three.
Her cleaning woman and handyman showed up dressed in jeans and shirts. They wanted to talk to my dad about what’d been left for them in the will. They stayed in the funeral parlor’s lobby and never got close to the body.
The casket was closed and, after an hour or so in the viewing room, Tia Candy was interred in the crypt without any kind of religious word. Without any note of remorse from anyone.
Nobody loved her.
I got to see firsthand, with Tia Candy’s funeral, the outcome of a life that was devoted to nothing, that was mean-spirited, self-interested, vengeful. She did have a husband, Oselio, who suffered a serious stroke when I was a kid and whose funeral was the first I ever attended, age six or seven. I’m not sure of the details, but I think she spent a few years tending to him. He’d sold fruit for a living and was apparently not a good businessman. If he had a batch of mangos that were about to spoil, he would let them spoil rather than sell them at half-price to a willing vendor. He was, like me, obsessed with the principle of things. They never had much money. Then he languished for a long time on the brink of death and finally when he died she was old and probably felt that a good chunk of her life had been stolen and I suppose this might have contributed to her behavior, her temperament.
I do now and then think that I see such people hanging around. They bicker with baristas. They dress with no regard for their appearance and sit by themselves at restaurant and send things back, demand things be removed from their bill.
Which also makes me think of the legless man, amputated at the hip, who goes up and down Brickell Avenue in a motorized wheelchair with a sign that says, “Even without legs, life is good.”
The idea that there are different kinds of loneliness is what I think I’m hooked on.