But they come less and less. More and more I look up and decide that although this lap belongs to a stranger, she seems safe. Maybe even likeable. Maybe even someone who will be my friend.
Loneliness is something that is fairly strange to me. There have been a few times in my life that I have felt lonely; raw, gut -wistingly lonely. The funny thing is that it was usually when I was surrounded by people, but new people. There is a lesson here, I think. There are many lessons.
One time that I can remember is when I was first married. I think I had expectations about finding my other half; about the completion, the wholeness of two people. And then I found myself sitting beside Chinua on our little couch in our little room, realizing it's still just me in here. As much as Chinua is my other half more than anyone else in the universe, I stand alone before God. We all do. It was crushing to me at the time, though. I think I had expected more magic, less conversations with the words- "Can you tell me one more time exactly what you mean because I just don't understand?" in them.
I've had a series of epiphanies like this; the discovery when I became a mother that I didn't feel any different. I was still just Rae, but 24 hours-on-call Rae who might not possess all of her faculties, and was alternately giddy and weeping. And spouting milk.
My grandmother told me once that she used to look in the mirror in her late seventies and feel exactly the same inside as she did at thirty. Her body was like a stranger.
But mostly, loneliness has not been a big part of life for me. As an introvert who is married with three children and has lived in community for the last ten years, I just don't have time to be lonely. I'm more often looking for solitude.
But there are new lessons for all of us, and coming here has been lonely. At least for now. I'm so thankful for my sweet, sweet husband. But we both look at each other at times and wonder where everyone is.
Lessons come for understanding, I think. Right now I want to reach into the solitude of anyone I can and place my hand right between their shoulder blades, and say, in the words of many taxi or rickshaw drivers in India, "I am here." It is good for me to experience the slightest touch of the lonely traveler. It's from this place that I will invite the lonely traveler into my home, offer him some chai, welcome him to my table.