STORY: Lone Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
In my early twenties Saturday summer evenings were the best. I still lived with my folks then, my sisters had long since moved out, and Saturday nights my parents - ever the socialites - would be out on the town (typically an early movie with friends followed by dinner, usually Chinese, sometimes Thai - then and now I've always envied my parents' social life). But glory be to the boy who gets to have the house to himself in the dusky hours before he too will go out on the town.
The requisite phone calls would be made, the usual back and forth with friends. What to do? Where to go? Same old, same old. Like we'd be twenty-two forever, which was a very boring and difficult thought considering how much time we had and how little we knew what to do with it.
Typically no one wanted to plan anything, so all involved in these circuitous phone calls (Did you talk to X? What are they up to?) would put off whatever we might do, continually getting off the phone with one another having not made anything concrete, hanging up our land line old telephones as if in states of perpetual shrug. This, of course, was because we knew exactly what we would do once we admitted it. Nailed it down. Cause it was a rare Saturday night that we didn't wind up at the same dingy coffee shop we ended up most every other night of the week, in the same industrial-awful north west part of the city where we'd play cards and smoke our brains out and eat day-old donuts for next to nothing.
Before committing to the near-certainty that we'd go where we always went and meet when we always did (around 10pm), a good three hours prior I'd take my parents second car to rent a DVD and then fetch me some McDonalds or awful takeout Chinese or a Harvey's hamburger combo, brought back to the house to be eaten in front of said movie. Course, by the time I had gone and gotten the food and by the time I had eaten it and finally finished flipping through what lack of TV there always wasn't on a Saturday night (is there a worse night for television?), only then, 10pm fast approaching, last slurps fighting to get the remaining Coke from between and beneath the small cubes of ice finished, only then would I finally turn on the DVD I'd rented, not fast forwarding through the previews no matter how bad. It was typically just as the 20th Century Fox insignia lit up the screen with its triumphant music, or maybe I was already old enough for the pleasure at flying over the bridge and into the city to see the Miramax sign come out bright white from the lit night buildings, in any case it was right about then and carefully before even that first credit from the movie proper had started that I'd pause the DVD and make the inevitable phone call to say that I was sorry, I thought I might just be lazy and stay in tonight.
This exact pattern did not play itself out every Saturday night when my parents went out. Sometimes I did go and play cards Saturday night, as I did so many other nights through my undergrad degree, but it happened a hell of a lot that I'd just wind up staying in.
It took me years, a whole decade really, to look back and realize that the Saturday night joy I was experiencing was the joy of being alone, that I had much of the lone wolf in me and that so long as I had the possibility (in my mind it was even the probability) of a social plan in the near distance, like the comfort of a lit gas station up ahead on a dark highway, I felt safe enough to lounge in my solitude up until it was too late to go out. By then I'd be so immersed in it that the fear of not being as social as my parents or sisters would have long passed. I'd be downright happy passing the night away by myself, invariably watching embarrassing numbers of television hours and gorging on copious amounts of fast food, cola and then of course dessert. Oh I was a fat man about the whole thing, you bet, but fuck it, I enjoyed it. And I needed the crutches (of fat, salt, sugar and movie) to help be who I liked to be. Years and years and still I kind of flip out to realize how much I like to be by myself. This a revelation when you come from as extroverted a family as I do.
It goes without saying, I suppose, that the writerly habits in me were only then just beginning to form. Though today I'm nearly as prone to coupling a night alone with burger, fry and coke, it won't as often be in front of the TV. Now if you want to find me some perfect summer eve, I'll often be in whatever cafe I've superstitiously connected myself (and whatever story I'm working on) with that week. I won't be at the party or at dinner with friends; I'll be seated alone, hunched over a table, fast scribbling or perhaps momentarily not scribbling a thing, looking out, looking dazed, aka thinking. Whatever the case, I'll look serious and what you may call lonely, and I will be loving it*.