Last afternoon, I drove 25km to MW’s house, because I haven’t seen him in ages and I was hoping to man up and have a chat with him. He was writing, and I was curled up on a sofa, reading this book, for about three hours. At that point, another friend dropped in and we had a quiet chat, which eventually got MW out of his writing frenzy and he joined in. After friend left, MW went back to work, but also began to talk and then we spent the next couple of hours sporadically talking and sitting about quietly. Then he looked up from his laptop and said: ‘I hope you didn’t get bored.’
I laughed and said, no of course not. ‘Why are you treating me like a guest?’
No, he replied, I just don’t understand how you could come all the way here and sit and read a book. I’d never do that–I’d stay home and read it!
Which is when I had to explain to him that sitting in companiable silence with another person, each of us doing our own thing, is exactly what is missing in my life. Amma always found it bizarre that Dragon and I would travel vast distances to sit in the same room and read different books. But to me that is the epitome of not being alone. It means that your life is settled enough that you don’t need to be in the frenzied active active space of social interaction. It reminds me hours spent in a friends house in Hyderabad on weekends, reading a book while everyone watched TV or slept. It reminds me of family vacations where everyone takes communal naps. It symbolises the happiest safest least critical or judgemental place there is.
Which brings me to how funny it is how different people are in their interpretations of solitude and loneliness.