It was 4 in the afternoon and there I was, in a place where lonely people go. There was nothing particularly special about this place, just a nondescript study area with huge fluorescent lamps inspecting the people dispersed in their solitude. Cubicles dividing, yet strangely orderly and united in their division. Tables grey, some white, chairs charcoal black. Huge Mackintosh screens peppered the space, unable to function in any other way than precisely the way it was meant to. I sat there twirling my pen, ensuring the pen looped around my thumb and came to rest at equilibrium. Time after time. The glass walls stared back and challenged me to talk to them.
I ignored the walls. I had a book in my hand, a political theory text with eighty pages unread. This was a place where lonely people go, the perfect place to devour a text, the sandwich for the flustered businessman, food rations for the starving soldier. Dreaded, but necessary. In the small space there was no one, yet everyone. People of the strangest dispositions, origins and resolutions sat well spaced, like a silent fart saturated through a stuffy classroom. There was nothing to look forward to here, but the shiny prospect of a future that we did not yet know existed. It was a frightening place to be, almost a transitory point to somewhere greater, which it turns out, is anywhere but here.
A man and a woman sat opposite me in the study space, at separate cubicles, weaving tarnished versions of what life had to offer. Their eyes nailed to their work, before the blue glow of Facebook reflected brightly in the man’s glasses. Suppressed laughter, the sound of procrastination ensued. The woman looked over in irritation. Her eyes spoke “fuck you.” I watched as they scribbled, typed, scribbled typed. A white man was falling asleep, drool quickly forming. He sucked the drool like a plumber removing silt from the bottom of a clogged sink. Is this a place where dreams come to die?
It certainly was. A girl stood up to my right. I call her that because a girlish quality could be observed in her gait, a springy one as such, jaunty and excited for the future that didn’t yet exist. She walked past me with an empty water bottle, the emptiness allowing light to pass through unobstructed, undistorted. In the emptiness held the vast reserves of truth and honesty. The emptiness, it seemed, was all our lives are doomed to tend towards. She walked out, presumably to refill her bottle. The door closed with a light thud, the loudest sound I would hear for the next three minutes.
“I want to get out of here,” I whispered. I glanced around, making sure no one had heard me, making sure no one would label me as a lunatic about to set the world on fire. “I want to get out of here!” I whispered again.
Still, no one turned. I smiled to myself. The woman to the top left of my field of vision reached over and scratched her bum. Two men walked in and scoured the space for seats. They came together, but little did they know that this togetherness was an illusion that the cubicles would help them come to terms with.
The Bombay Bicycle Club faded into the soundtrack in my head. “Leaving Blues” danced on the peripheries of my mind. In a space so tainted with loneliness it was only natural that it did. “You’re leaving” somebody whispered, but it was nobody. Sadness truly seeps in when nobody whispers something that would be sad if somebody whispered it anyway. Meanwhile my book would not read itself with the same intensity that my life resisted living. I focused, stone hard vision piercing through a book that seemed to be made entirely of diamond. My highlighter hovered above fresh pages, a laser primed to be shot but a mechanic unsure of how lasers should be shot.
The two men finally found their seats, separated into two different cubicles, softly acknowledging their loneliness. Loneliness was theirs, but they were never lonely, it seemed. Both took out their phones, both felt like they had a life outside here they could very well be at. I shot my glance back to my book. The door clicked open.
The girl was back. The woman scratched her butt again. The white man woke up and grunted. A few people turned their heads. My highlighter fell out of my hand, precisely when the girl brushed past me, it was out of my control. My vision blurred, she stepped on the highlighter. The girl fell forward, let go of her bottle. I regarded the scene with the helplessness of a bystander. The bottle flew in the air, even the white man looked up from his reverie.
It fell onto the table, released its tremulous load and soaked my book in the promises of yesterday, my highlighter crushed beyond repair, my resolutions finding a hole and quickly jumping into it without coercion.
“I’m sorry,” she would later say.
“Don’t be,” I would tell her
“Why?” She was curious.
Because this is a place where lonely people go, I thought.