“The Lonely Man”
The longing for companionship is the universal need for mutual understanding. Finding part of yourself in another human being while discovering a part of another human being in yourself. No longer feeling incomplete, and no longer being misunderstood. Love is the language of mutual understanding, the only true bond of companionship. A couple shares life by sharing their selves.
This is the voice of experiences past, not present ones. What I desperately longed for in my past relationship was companionship. What I desperately found was insensitivity, the scars of which I bear to this day. I learned that feeling completely alone in the company of someone who allegedly loves you is far worse than being alone by yourself. At the very least, solitude provides the freedom to travel down a different road while hope nurtures life. But it comes at a price.
Solitude brings the deafening incompleteness of silence. A second opinion that neither confirms nor denies your convictions. It simply allows you to hear your own voice, reaffirming the truth or reinforcing your lies. The voice of silence is your own, the echo chamber of your soul. Many enjoy listening to the sound of their own voices in public, but very few enjoy doing so alone. Silence is never fooled, lies remain deceptive and the truth liberating. As you can see, I am well acquainted with solitude, but when did we first meet? At what point of my life did I first realize that I was incomplete, that I felt misunderstood, that I was alone? As a child.
As a child, I watched the Incredible Hulk TV series during lazy afternoons after returning home from school. A failed military experiment transformed the scientist Bruce Banner into an indestructible emerald juggernaut fueled by rage. In trying to push the boundaries of science, he had become a destructive force of nature. He was condemned to the life of a wanderer, going from town to town unable to form lasting human bonds, concerned about his alter ego and the harm it could cause.
What struck me most about the series was not the destructiveness of rage, a foreign language to me, but the emptiness of solitude. All that remains alive in my memory is the final scene of each episode. Bruce Banner walking down a street or a highway hitchhiking his way to a new destination. After all the trials he faced, all the battles he won, he remained a downcast man, supported only by his own footsteps. He carried his home in his backpack, travelled aimlessly and felt consumed by a mistake that seemed beyond redemption. His intelligence became a burden, concealed not to arouse suspicion. The friendships formed along the way all left behind. They could not accompany him down his road. What truly made him incredible was not the Hulk, but Bruce Banner himself. The man who battled solitude to master rage, the beast within.
In the end of each episode, “The Lonely Man” theme song, composed by Joe Harnell, played in the background as Bruce Banner continued on his solitary journey for redemption. It became the first musical rendition of solitude I ever came across. Paradoxically, the bridge of silence between two destinations had a score. Then again, so did life. This score is the sound of our own voices, the reverberation of our thoughts, the harmony of our dreams, the dissonance of our fears and the echoes of our memories. In the end, solitude may not be so solitary after all. The only remaining question is how long we can endure its company. A question I have yet to answer.
Having made my acquaintance with solitude, I then began to realize the extent to which I was incomplete, the extent to which I felt misunderstood and alone. All this gradually took place in school. Three times my parents were asked if they wanted me to skip a grade. Three times they declined. Friendship was just as important to a child´s development as academic preparation, and they feared the influence of older students could be detrimental. Only in fifth grade did they finally relent, allowing me to skip a grade in math class. In retrospect, they made the right decision. Those were some of the most enjoyable years of my life, and the company of my classmates certainly played a big role. But once again, there was a price to pay.
The first time I challenged night for a duel and studied until dawn was in fourth grade. After that, the vibrant, iridescent hurricane of academic life engulfed me completely. Questions flew all around me. They were hurled at my direction from all sides. Why was Einstein unemployed for so long after graduation? Did potential and merit not speak for themselves? What does it mean to long for someone as Poe did for his lost Lenore? Why did Frost choose the road less travelled by? Why did Raskolnikov rush to commit murder only to be slowly consumed by guilt? Why did Mayo´s best friend have to commit suicide in “An Officer and a Gentleman” when he had so much to live for? Why were so many kids my age out on the street when they should be in school anyway?
A vortex of questions leading to a black hole of answers. In fifth grade, none of my teachers could answer them, and these questions were not merely academic. They all pertained to human nature. I longed to understand what I had seen, listened and read, but not experienced. I wanted to apply the encapsulated renditions of reality I studied to understanding the world around me, one that seemed so incomprehensible at times.
Despite the peace and quiet of my family life, one of our neighbors was violent towards his wife and abusive towards his children. There was always a mattress outside his apartment because his son wet his bed despite being my age. If I could understand human nature through my studies and art, if I could apply what I learned inside and outside of school to my life, then I could understand the world of adults. But as I voiced my concerns, only silence answered my questions, the most unsatisfying subterfuge at a trying time.
If growing up was going to be this confusing, I should at least be able to share the burden. I was not expecting to find a girl who had all the answers, but simply one who shared the same values and inquisitive nature. A girl who longed to extract greater meaning from the life unfolding around us. One who offered emotional support in a world that never stood still, in full expectation that I would reciprocate in kind. Even if stranded on the same desert island, we would never be alone. The companionship that only mutual understanding can provide would not allow it. There is more to holding hands than the sense of touch can provide. No couple is ever alone when looking as one at life. This is what I believed. This is what I still do. My journey remains incomplete until the right woman says I do.