I googled the definition of boredom first; I wanted to remind myself what the word meant. I tried to convince myself that I was always confusing loneliness with boredom. Whenever I felt the dull pain that numbed the front of my brain, I assumed I was lonely, but the definition reminded me I was just in the throes and throngs of boredom. Loneliness was something deeper—something that came from the stomach. The definition didn’t tell me that. I inferred that. Boredom lives in the brain; loneliness lives in the guts.
Running parallel to my Google searches were the ads—singles in your neighborhood.
Lonely is an adjective that means you are sad because you have no friends and/or no company. There is nowhere to spend your time. I remind myself of the definition as I read the words again—Lonely? Singles in your neighborhood, now.
There was a study done by scientists—I assumed—that found the more a person looks in the mirror, the more aware of their behavior they are. The scientists believed that looking in the mirror, and thusly increasing your self-awareness, you could also increase your happiness. Self-awareness was transient to happiness.
So I had to know the answer to the question—to the ad. Lonely? I bathed in the radiation I’m sure was being pumped from my computer screen. I was lonely—but I imagined the circumstances where I could become lonely—and assumed I was lonely through the process of elimination. That’s what people say about my generation: millennials: We are good at imagining ourselves as unhappy. That’s why we created so much technology—to distract ourselves from our insatiable desire to be unhappy.
Singles in your neighborhood, now.
I could feel the singles prowling along the rooftops, dangling from gutters, peaking in through the slits in the blinds—prying for information. The singles were in my neighborhood, but what did they want from me? I made myself curious about all of the singles that were in my neighborhood. Were they desperately lonely like me? But I couldn’t remember when I became desperately lonely. I retraced the thoughts; there were all these desperate and lonely and bored people near me—and they were single like I was single. We could fix each other. We were desperate for each other. We could twist tongues and lock lips in the jaundiced glow of my computer screen.
I leaned to the left, my hand pushing away the blind of my bedroom window. Lonely. I could see the singles walking in the street walking from lamppost to lamppost. Each person got their moment in the spotlight. They were all genders, all shapes—to the point where they were just an amorphous blob of human loneliness bouncing around in the dark, then the light, and then the dark, and then the light again.
I picked the men from the blob, the men who were lonely—like me. The tall, the lanky, the beards, the glasses—all of them dressed the same, but different. Each man wearing a cotton t-shirt: some of the shirts had the name of a band, others were artifacts of the nerd culture. There were other men. The short, the barrel-chested, the slicked back hair, the button up shirts and polos. These were the traditional men. They were the real men. I didn’t know real men got lonely. There was no end to our suffering.
My eyes left the men in the street. There was a woman hunched over in a blue nightgown, bent at the knees, in my front yard. Her hands were pulling at the dirt; clumps of grass came up as she clawed at the lawn. Each handful went by the wayside, as she kept digging and pulling up the topsoil. I yanked on the lip of my window—trying to lift it—but the pane was sealed shut from years of inactivity. I sprinted from my bedroom to the front door. The woman worked fast. The dirt already piled up in the front yard.
“What are you doing?” I shouted at the woman.
“I’m looking for your father,” the woman shouted back. She leaned forward, mouth open, and took a bite out of the ground. She had to satisfy her impatience.
“Who are you?” I shouted.
“41-years-old. Single. Mother,” the woman said. My attention was grabbed by the men in the street. They congregated around a pale-faced woman at the end of the block. The men swayed together in a tribal fashion. They chanted hot—hot—hot. The pale-faced woman in the center of the circle had cheekbones that started at her knees and went all the way to the sockets of her eyes. She was the plug—the charge. The men smothered themselves in the black hair of the woman. No one in the city could breathe.
The woman in the front yard stopped taking bites out of the lawn and watched the men in the street with me. A man stepped forward from the blob as the chants died down. The man wasn’t attractive; his skin was stretched too tight over his bones. He looked like a lizard. I could tell the man truly believed he was something special. In the lamplight, in front of the woman, while the rest of the men watched and hoped she’d love him with his teeth full of ache. I hated him for stepping outside of the circle, for not being with us in our loneliness.
“For love,” the man with the aching teeth and desire to be himself said.
The woman with love in her cheeks and lust in her mouth leaned into the man. Her mouth opened—like the woman in the yard—and she bit clean through the man’s throat. The man tried not to yelp or drown in his blood, but that is what we came for.
I already forgot the definition.
The men in the circle filed toward the woman, one-by-one. Each man turned their necks out so that the woman could take a piece of them—if she wanted. The men weren’t happy, their necks dangling, waiting for decapitation. This was our mating ritual. All those corkscrewed necks twisted around the idea of love—waiting for their turn.
And the woman—that poor woman—relegated to the same song and dance with each man. All she was worth was the offer of their bodies; they could give her nothing else.
“Will you keep digging?” I asked as I turned back to the woman on the lawn. I missed the sound of the dirt splattering against the ground—her chewing her way through life and dirt.
The woman on the lawn motioned toward the mob of men’s bodies that were filling up in the street. All those bleeding bodies dying out. “What’s the point?”
“Because you’re lonely,” I said. “We sought this out. Singles in your neighborhood.”
The woman kneeled in the dirt; the nightgown covered up her knees—swallowed her body. Her head floated there as if it were detached from her body.
“Join them,” she said. She fell face first into the partially dug hole; the hole where she was trying to find a father. She stuffed her face into the mud, swallowing chunks of it and holding them in her cheeks.
“I don’t want to follow you,” I said.
“You have to,” she said. “You are lonely. Lonely. It means you are sad because you have no one. It means you die alone.”
“Lonely,” I repeated.