The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.

At the Unitarian Universalist Christmas pageant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it didn't matter that Mary insisted on keeping her nails painted black or that Joseph had come out of the closet. On December 25 at seven and nine p.m., three wise women would follow the men down the aisle -- one wearing a kimono and another, African garb; instead of myrrh they would bring chicken soup, instead of frankincense they'd play lullabies. The shepherds had a line on protecting the environment and the innkeeper held a foreclosure sign. No one quite believed in God and no one quite didn't -- so they made it about the songs and the candles and the pressing together of bodies on lacquered wooden pews.

But as I watched him smile back at me and zip his coat, I saw everything in the world build up and then everything in the world fall down again.

But it became clear very quickly that I'd underestimated how much I liked him. Not him, perhaps, but the fact that I had someone on the other end of an invisible line. Someone to update and get updates from, to inform of a comic discovery, to imagine while dancing in a lonely basement, and to return to, finally, when the music stopped.

Do you wanna leave soon?
No, I want enough time to be in love with everything...

High on their posthumous pedestals, the dead become hard to see. Grief, deference, and the homogenizing effects of adulation blur the details, flatten the bumps, sand off the sharp corners.

I blame the Internet. Its inconsiderate inclusion of everything.Success is transparent and accessible, hanging down where it can tease but not touch us. We talk into these scratchy microphones and take extra photographs but I still feel like there are just SO MANY PEOPLE. Every day, 1,035.6 books are published; sixty-six million people update their status each morning. At night, aimlessly scrolling, I remind myself of elementary school murals. One person can make a difference! But the people asking me what I want to be when I grow up don't want me to make a poster anymore. They want me to fill out forms and hand them rectangular cards that say HELLO THIS IS WHAT I DO.

If you didn’t already know this, the sun is going to die. When I think about the future, I don’t think about inescapable ends. But even if we solve global warming and destroy nuclear bombs and control population, ultimately the human race will annihilate itself if we stay here. Eventually, inevitably, we will no longer be able to live on Earth: we have a giant fireball clock ticking down twilight by twilight. In many ways, I think mortality is more manageable when we consider our eternal components, our genetics and otherwise that carry on after us. Still, soon enough, the books we write and the plants we grow will freeze up and rot in the darkness. But maybe there’s hope. What the universe really boils down to is whether a planet evolves a life-form intelligent enough to create technology capable of transporting and sustaining that life-form off the planet before the sun in that planet’s solar system explodes. I have a limited set of comparative data points, but I’d estimate that we’re actually doing okay at this point. We already have (intelligent) life, technology, and (primitive) space travel. And we still have some time before our sun runs out of hydrogen and goes nuclear. Yet none of that matters unless we can develop a sustainable means of living and traveling in space. Maybe we can. What I’ve concluded is that if we do reach this point, we have crossed a remarkable threshold—and will emerge into the (rare?) evolutionary status of having outlived the very life source that created us. It’s natural selection on a Universal scale. “The Origin of the Aliens,” one could say; a survival of the fittest planets. Planets capable of evolving life intelligent enough to leave before the lights go out. I suppose that without a God, NASA is my anti-nihilism. Alone and on my laptop, these ideas can humble me into apathy.

I miss dreaming forwards," Anna said.
"What?"
"I dream backwards now. You won't believe how backwards you'll dream someday.

I'm so jealous. Laughable jealousies, jealousies of everyone who might get a chance to speak from the dead. I've zoomed out my timeline to include the apocalypse, and, religionless, I worship the potential for my own tangible trace. How presumptuous! To assume specialness in the first place. As I age, I can see the possibilities fade from the fourth-grade displays: it's too late to be a doctor, to star in a movie, to run for president. There's a really good chance I'll never do anything. It's selfish and self-centered to consider, but it scares me.

I read somewhere that radio waves just keep traveling outward, flying into the universe with eternal vibrations. Sometime before I die I think I'll find a microphone and climb to the top of a radio tower. I'll take a deep breath and close my eye because it will start to rain right when I reach the top. Hello, I'll say to outer space, this is my card.

I saw everything in the world build up and then everything in the world fall down again.

It's not quite love and it's not quite community; it's just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it's four A.M. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can't remember. That time we did, we went , we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

I want enough time to be in love with everything . . .

I will live for love, and the rest will take care of itself.

I worry sometimes that humans are afraid of helping humans. There's less risk associated with animals, less fear of failure, fear of getting to involved.

I worry sometimes that humans are afraid of helping humans. There’s less risk associated with animals, less fear of failure, fear of getting too involved. In war movies, a thousand soldiers can die gruesomely, but when the horse is shot, the audience is heartbroken. It’s the My Dog Skip effect. The Homeward Bound syndrome.

Maybe I’m ignorant and idealistic but I just feel like that can’t possibly be true. I feel like we know that. I feel like we can do something really cool to this world. And I fear—at twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five—we might forget.

something about the stillness or my state of mind reminded me of the world’s remarkable capacity to carry on in every place at once.

Sometimes I think about what it would be like if there was actual peace. The whole planet would be super sustainable: windmills everywhere, solar paneled do-bops, clean streets. Before the world freezes and goes dark, it would be perfect. The generation flying its tiny cars would think itself special. Until one day, vaguely, quietly, the sun would flicker out and they'd realized that none of us are. Or that all of us are.

So what I'm trying to say is you should text me back.
Because there's a precedent. Because there's an urgency.
Because there's a bedtime.
Because when the world ends I might not have my phone charged and
If you don't respond soon,
I won't know if you'd wanna leave your shadow next to mine.

The middle of the universe is tonight, is here, And everything behind is a sunk cost.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.

We have these impossibly high standards and we'll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves.

we just battle time.

We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my high school self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

We're so young. We can't, we MUST not loose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have.

We're so young. We're so young. We're twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There's this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lie alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out - that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it's too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over.

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating from college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.