When I’m alone I often think about going fishing. Fishing gives you the excuse and opportunity to be purposely alone. Idly sitting, watching the water move and the float bob, or hoping it will bob at some point, fishing is such a perfect contemplative space. You are with your thoughts, a finite piece of time in which to ponder the greater meaning of life, or daydream shapes in the clouds, or drink a beer during the day without guilt. If you fish with a buddy conversation is not encouraged. It scares the fish. In fact, you want your buddy a far bit away so that you have your own “spot”. So there you are, alone and it’s okay, and acceptable.
This is very unlike being alone in the city. Dining alone, walking alone, shopping alone, cooking alone, sometimes I feel that no one even sees me, like I’m a wisp of fog against a sky of clouds. It’s an odd feeling to be in a city of millions and yet feel like you are the only one on the planet. People practice not noticing each other, avoiding eye contact and you don’t talk to strangers, you don’t even know your neighbors.
When fishing, you’re not really alone; you have the sky and the sun and the water. Every cast is an act of optimism, the hope to hook something, an effort to connect. It’s a lot like dating, eyeing the waters, and hoping you don’t end up empty handed. You might catch the big one, or have to throw back your catch or perhaps not catch anything at all. It’s implied that whether or not it was productive it was a noble effort and not just time slacking off or frittered away. You won’t hear the cringe-inducing questions, “What did you do all weekend by yourself?”, or “Table for just one?”
Fishing for companionship in the city is for many a futile effort. The maxim “there are many fish in the sea” doesn’t seem to hold true. Many people never find their catch amidst the concrete rivers here. Being solitary is such a stigma and yet what is one to do about it? You get accused of making poor choices or being picky or maybe just being a failure. “Oh, you aren’t seeing anyone?” Cringe. Or maybe, like fishing, there was the one that got away, and the wish for companionship becomes a tale told with a wistful look in the eye.
I’ve been lonely for what feels so long now that even though I notice it keenly it doesn’t have the stabbing ache it once did, and I wonder if I am just becoming accustomed to this new state of being, like getting used to a broken toe. I have dear, loving friends, but at the end of the day I come home and there are only one pair of shoes under the bed. The warm body next to me at night is my old snoring cat so I hug a pillow and roll over and watch the zebra shadows on the wall and wish I were fishing.