because the personal is cultural
«Elle comprenait seulement que rien n’est plus fort que cet instinct de revenir là où on nous a brisé, et de répéter cet instant pendant des années. En pensant seulement que ce qui nous a sauvé une fois pourra nous sauver à jamais.»
Alessandro Baricco, Sans sang
Even though I only live an hour away from my family, I hadn’t seen them in eight months. The pandemic was to blame, of course, but even at the best of times I would only go see them every few months. There is that no public transport goes to Lacolle. More importantly, there is that I have really bad FOMO. I saw about 300 artists in concert last year. But COVID cured me of that. Now I can be in Lacolle without thinking about all the things I’m missing because there is no longer anything to miss. The pandemic has taken with it all of the advantages of living in the city and left only its inconveniences: too many people everywhere and too little of anything else anywhere.
It was the best time I had at my parents’ since the summers before I first moved out when I was nineteen. Why the summers? Because, free from going to school, I was alone. Reading by the pool. Listening to music as loud as I wanted since our closest neighbours lived 350 metres away. (I MISS THIS. Maybe my love for concerts has been little more than an attempt to recreate this, which would partially explain why I tend to prefer underattended shows.) Reading in the bathtub. Watching movies. I’d bought a TV with the money I made working on the farm so I could watch movies in my room after everyone had gone to bed. In the winter, its light would sometimes reveal a mouse travelling through the house at night. A few days later, we would inevitably find it in the trap in the kitchen closet.
I remember I’d asked my mom to buy me a cup so disgustingly huge that the first one broke as she brought it home. I would fill it with hot chocolate that I would sip on as I read in bed.
After the infamous ice storm of 1998, I dragged a twin mattress in the office downstairs, shoved it in a corner, and covered it with cushions and pillows. I would spend my days reading there.
This time, I read five books in the fifteen days I was there. Reading on my parents’ balcony, I saw a hummingbird hovering over the bushes and a doe eating in the field across the street with its baby deer. Just like Marchbanks in George Bernard Shaw’s Candida, “I had my books. I had Nature.” The fewer humans there are, the more life there is.
Because I had brought weed oil with me, it was the first time I was able to get stoned at my parents’ house. One such night, after they had gone to bed, on the way to my bedroom, my arms filled with snacks, a thought hit me: being high aside, here I was, finding solace in doing the same thing I had been doing over two decades before, in doing the same thing I had been doing ever since. My source of comfort had never been a person. And, if it was, that person was me. Being alone wasn’t something that had been done to me; it was something I had chosen.
As Brittany Julious wrote in her own personal essay about solitude, “This solitariness was […] about doing the things I’ve always wanted to do. It was about being the person I’ve always wanted to be. It was about seeing things myself, staying curious, learning, laughing, confronting my fears, finding what I love and never letting go.”
I don’t remember the movie I watched that night. But I know it was extra good.
has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.