The orange sun was like the eyes of the neighbourhood cat that kicked the bejesus out of me. It was glowing in the dark. In a way, it reminded me of my doomed destination. No ifs, ands or buts. I saddled up my black hand-bag and raved towards the afternoon glaze with all the Wild West background music I could ever think of, an unlikely cowboy accent, and enough money to camp out for a day or two. This ain’t old Texas, but I felt the call of canned beans, smoked barbecues, husky bonfire songs, and Western loneliness. Lone ranger coming up. “Heeyaa,” squeaked the engine of the big Ceres bus. It was about to go. “Yer read togaw, Pardner?” said the male clippie. I nodded my head down. From it fell down my large, brown cowboy hat with the words “lonely” scribbled in Italicized, country-bred letters. Was I? The bus skedaddled southbound, and I took the metaphorical sombrero on the floor and placed it back on my head. Perfect fit, I said. Heeyaa, shouted the bus back.
“Leaving town is what cowboyin is all about,” writes Garrison Keillor in his tome about men: ‘The Book of Guys’. “You find a nice place and it’s wonderful and then suddenly you can’t stand it… This is the basic cowboy pattern…” The words of Keillor, in the character of ‘Lonesome Shorty’, whispered an echo into my ears. It resonated deep within my soul: am I a lonesome cowboy? “A guy can’t live with people and he can’t live without them,” says Lonesome Shorty. I took a picture of the entrails of the bus, for blog purposes (most, if not all, lonely people richly take pictures of almost any setting and almost everything, except that of people). Scanning the files I saved even from before led me to a gallery of faces – images of people with awkward smiles, or with Spiderman jumping skills, or a modelling for hemorrhoid commercials. These are memories captured in eight megapixels and obsolete shutter bursts. Then, I checked my bag and what’s inside is a small notebook ready to intercourse with my writing pen. Later on, I’ll be writing 2-3 chapters in the hotel room reserved to me by a friend, and this is not lonesome. I’ll be with Reddington Cain, Father Anton, Chuk’Thanukh and the rest of the colorful people inside my new project.
Well, waddya kner? I decided not to lose my thoughts about writing and being in solitude for a while; nor my fake and stupid-sounding Wild Western tongue. When a man feels lonely, he becomes a cowboy, I imagined. Well, waddya kner?
For two hours I would be in my destination. “Your problem is that you never found the woman you loved enough to make you want to come in off the range and settle down,” says one of the characters to Lonesome Shorty. Maybe she was right. Maybe not. Lonesome Shorty found a woman and stayed for a short while, and later on – got back to “cowboyin” again.
There is, I guess, a hole inside our hearts that howdies loneliness in the face and ushers it home. I need to understand that I have to embrace two things in life: 1) the bursts of loneliness that is flowing deep within my bloodstream, and, upon scanning my gallery once again, 2) the sweetness of real friendship in the laughter and tears and anger and forgivable distance of those closest to me. I need to treasure my true friends as well as my times of solitude. Not all moments are happy moments with friends, I mused. But I also need to understand that the other side of the coin is also true: that not all moments are lonely moments.
I then imagined what it was like for Jesus, hanging on the cross, and with blood dripping down his face, his vision snakes through the crowd and sees his beloveds. His disciples were hiding behind the garb and edges of a hostile crowd. His friends deserted him. Israel crucified him. Rome spat on his face. His heavenly Father forsook him. Forgive me for my imaginary apocryphal setting, but I see Jesus’ phone on display. In his gallery are James and John with their awkward smiles, Zacchaeus and Nicodemus in their Spiderman jumpshots, Peter and soon-to-be Paul posing as weird, clinically disturbing models. Friends, he says. He then breathes heavily and smiles. Beloveds, he repeats.
I see another lesson on the cross. Isaiah writes of Jesus: He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isa. 53:3-5)While here on earth, Jesus too, embraced both loneliness and its inverse. Jesus understands.
“I’m not alone all along,” I reminded myself. Soon, I was tired enough to lay down my head, and felt that my imaginary hat fell down the floor of the bus again. I took it and placed it back on my head. The word scribbled, however, was different. Beloved, says the hat. Much better, I replied. Sir, bayad mo, roared the bus conductor who sounded like a wild stallion.