When I go out, the vacuum of people overpowers me.
I have lived outside of Philadelphia for two years now and I can't get used to the feeling of people. There are people wherever I look. There are always people on the street in front of my building; running to the train, walking a dog, talking on a cell phone. In my home I can hear the upstairs neighbor playing his guitar and smell the cooking of the downstairs neighbor. When I go out, the vacuum of people overpowers me.
At the grocery store today there were gads of people. People milling here and there, smiling at my kids and nodding hello to me. Some had companions, some had kids, but most were alone. Alone. I never thought it would be possible to feel so lonely with so many people around. I said “How do you do?” to the lady at the check out line and at home I answered the phone once. A neighbor said hello in the hallway and we ran into a kid from up the street out on a walk with his dad.
Then, of course, there are my girls, always my girls there and needing something, anything of me. Their chatter surrounds me constantly. But I never really talk to anyone. There are so many people out there and they all seem to be floating in this sea of people.
I watch these people and they all seem as alone as I am. I can see the large man with a potbelly going home and eating his dinner in front of the TV before grunting good night to his wife. I see the lady talking fast into a cell phone working herself until she can't see how her apartment echoes of quiet through her exhaustion. I can't help but wonder if these people ever realize they aren‘t connecting with anyone, just drowning in their chosen distraction. If they do, I imagine they must think it will be their next love or a baby or a book club that will save them from their loneliness. I have spent years believing that school, marriage, work and then kids will complete me. I was always looking for new people, friends. Not until I was surrounded by so many people did I wonder if there was more to my loneliness.
I have unlimited sources of people and I have tried so many. I still want something more and I can't decide what it is. But I think humans are meant to keep reaching. Happiness is our goal, but we are not allowed to be content. This is how we got houses and electricity and especially art. We are all cursed with the instinct to keep looking. The instinct that allowed the rare geniuses throughout history to do amazing things, but has left the rest of us restless and unsure, always looking.