Yesterday, October 12, 2017, was my birthday, meaning, no cards, no cake, no candles, no calls. No presents, no invitations, no "I know today is your birthday and I know it's always hard for you. Want to talk about it?"
My birthday mostly exists to drive home to me that I am alone, have always been alone, and will always be alone.
And so this blog about aloneness.
Has anyone ever been as alone as I am?
My birthday is the same date as traditional Columbus Day, an international and, of late, controversial holiday, to which I am sentimentally attached. Lately people have been attacking Columbus Day, and I stepped up and reposted a previous piece arguing against the New Age, Politically Correct insistence that white men are uniquely evil and that Native Americans were and are superior.
A reader wrote to remind me of the Crow Creek Massacre.
Some Indians were living in a settlement, complete with a protective moat and stockade. Invaders came. The Indians were massacred and their remains left for researchers to study. Invaders scalped them. Tore out their tongues. Left their bodies to rot in the sun, without decent burial. There are relatively few remains of fertile females. Probably taken as sex slaves. This all happened, researchers say, in the 1300s, well before Europeans arrived in North America.
Reading the researchers' account was really disturbing. I could picture myself in that village, facing the invaders, being dragged out and bludgeoned.
People. What we humans do to each other.
When I think of this Crow Creek massacre, I feel so sad and so overwhelmed. I think of many things, including, how lonely it feels. Lonely as in unconnected. Lonely as in without gravestone, commemoration, without the balm of meaning. We don't even have names for these victims. They were just anonymous human flesh slaughtered like animals.
Meaning can make almost anything unbearable. Being alone strips you of meaning. Yesterday meant nothing to anyone but me.
I should be grateful. I have, so far, eluded the scalping tomahawk. Although I see, in this morning's news, that Trump has managed to cut off funding for health care for folks like me: working poor, pre-existing condition, chronically ill, and old. I have recently received my second cancer diagnosis. If what I am reading is true, I have just lost access to necessary treatment and monitoring. How many of us will our fellow citizens dispatch to more civilized mass graves?
I wasn't always this alone. When I was younger, prettier, less poor, more shy – thus less challenging – and more conventional, there were more people in my life.
I remember when I first began writing. That drove people away, especially men.
I remember when I got sick with the inner ear ailment. Friends evaporated like dew.
First apology. G was in my life twenty-five years ago. Twenty-five years! That's more years than my brother Phil, who was killed on my birthday, had on earth.
After I was struck by the inner ear disorder, G rejected my friendship. She did so quite articulately. She called me up and said, "You are facing many hardships, and I don't like hearing about it. If you can't be more upbeat, goodbye." It was one of those phone calls that is so stunning that I remember exactly where I was standing when I received it.
G contacted me a few months back. She had found me through Facebook. My name is unusual and easily googled. She sent me a friend request, and a rather tepid apology for her behavior over twenty years ago.
I did not respond. As a Christian, I am supposed to offer forgiveness. Let Jesus forgive G. I feel zero forgiveness for G and I do not want to reward her with my presence in her life. She has proven herself unworthy.
Second apology. R was adorable. He had the cutest Scottish accent. He had a heart of gold. We were lovers.
My brother Mike died and I was sad. It was my second brother to die, in the prime of life, in a relatively short time. In addition to being sad, I was also, slowly but surely, finding my voice as a writer in those days. I spoke. I expressed my opinion.
R broke up with me. He said he couldn't handle my sadness over my brother's death, and he was put off by how verbal and intelligent I was.
I was young, and I thought I'd find another lover easily enough, so I did not hold it against him.
Years later, he wrote to apologize, to tell me that he had still had feelings for me, and that he was about to marry a woman, about whom he said, "Every idea she has in her head, I put there." I suspect that they are very happy.
Third apology. I adored E. He backed away from me when I was going through a difficult time. Years later he wrote to apologize. He said that he had gone to grad school, and had been targeted, for no good reason, by the higherups, and he suddenly understood the difficult time I had been going through. He said that his friends had begun to back away from him the way that he remembered himself backing away from me. He said that he suddenly realized how venally he had behaved, and how much it must have hurt me.
It was a beautiful letter. We are no longer in touch. Some broken things can't be fixed. I still think of E, and only with fondness. He had eyes the color of Sleeping Beauty turquoise. That is what I remember, and that sweet sound of his voice.
And being alone.
Happy Birthday to me.