I often say that life in Tokyo is fantastically lonely. That description isn’t fully accurate; for one, I should really specify “my life,” to avoid immediate objections regarding generalization. I should also qualify the use of “lonely,” which, despite the aura of negative connotations, deserves, in my mind, a long-awaited re-branding. When I flesh out the world of loneliness, my mind moves to empty parking lots, tightly-packed library aisles, trees bathed in shade. Tiny treasures found on midnight excursions. Sometimes, this world is inhabited by others: strangers, friends. Lovers, too. Loneliness is possible in the company of the many. I imagine living as an android, interfacing with real, full-blooded humans without knowledge of their supremacy, as though they were a museum display of glittering objects. I turn inwards, like a night-blooming flower faced with sunlight.
I struggle to word this issue of loneliness without falling deeply into alternating pools of narcissism and self-pity. “What does ‘a pool of narcissism’ look like? Glad you asked: I imagine it to be perfectly circular, as though inscribed upon the Earth with an art compass. The surface is littered in wax lilies in impossible colors. Their fragrance is vaguely fungal, cadaverous, and clings to the air like a swipe of oily residue on a dirty pan. The pool of self-pity, in contrast, smells divine. Alcoholic on the palate, even; like a sweet, nutty cognac. To consistently avoid both traps requires more patience, maturity, and thoughtfulness than I think I will ever possess.
But back to loneliness. This is the ultimate banal leitmotif, but at my loneliest, I see most clearly. I think of my own life, totally unremarkable in the cosmic sense of things, woven into a period of human history that is sensationally sad, powerfully narcotized, and desperately hopeful. Here sit I, on a grassy knoll on the periphery, caught in a microcosm of personal dysfunction.
How to abide the limp truths of mortal living, which render us fragile, transient, and easily submerged in dark sands of time. How to sustain the memories of every past hurt, every present joy, every future aspiration for myself, for you, for humans, as a biological whole and concept, all nonhuman life, dogwood flowers, millennial pink salmon fish, shiny lavender acrylic rhinestones, 23 billion chickens, pale green jade peeled from the riverbed, starving beasts, bloodied jaguars, domesticated tabby cats, houseplants. How to artfully curate an aesthetic of deep, constant loneliness. How to embrace that sweet swell of affection that you feel for yourself at your weakest. The colors of passion on the palette as I crest the hill and notice the cherries in hypnotically early bloom. The buckling of the knees. Taking the elevator to the top of a seaside viewing tower and gauging, out of simple-minded, morbid curiosity, the impact of a fall. How to exorcise the instinct to mash and tenderize my mind with every bad feeling. How to withstand the pressure to be better than the worst I’ve ever been.
I think of it all, walking alone to the station as I have almost every day for two years. I feel my emotions rise feverishly, then fade. Hunger, thunder, envy, neediness, all filling that negative space between reality and expectation. The loneliness I hold too close to my heart. The funny part is that I’ve never been this secure and well-loved in my entire life. I have my health and my happiness; they sit like two perfect peaches in each of my outstretched palms. It’s easily how confident I feel in this love that allows my loneliness to be so thoughtlessly self-indulgent. Like a young poet in a Hollywood production, or a nymph gazing at a sailor from a supersized aquamarine clam shell, I delight in channeling melodrama from a place of safety. This is the earnest, foolish, dramatic, complicated pain that has accompanied me all throughout my early twenties.