I had a strange moment of pseudo-loneliness tonight.
Today was Cinco de Mayo, something I completely forgot about until I was driving home from the store this evening.
I went into work this afternoon, oblivious to the fact that tequila and margaritas were likely in abundance everywhere around me; my snooze-worthy Starbucks iced coffee kept me company while I toiled in the office. I left, and even when I thought about having tacos for dinner, things still weren’t clicking.
My groceries were snug and safe in my trunk. Low clouds hung in the sky and a weird glow was visible in the distance. The night air was cool, a welcome departure from our prematurely toasty first few days of May.
I wasn’t sure where the glow was coming from exactly. It seemed too close to be coming from Disneyland, and then it hit me: it was the carnival that had moved into a local park for the weekend. Celebrations were underway.
Those fly-by-night operations have always freaked me out, but others don’t seem to be bothered by them — as evidenced by the long lines and throngs of people milling about, eating greasy festival food and clinging to balloons whose life will end sometime tomorrow when their helium loses its potency. This particular park has long been the site of annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations and, sadly, many stabbings, a shooting or two and a number of other assaults over the years. I have never been; the police presence and tales from prior events are enough to keep me away.
Something about the song on the radio — I can’t even tell you what I was listening to now — instantly brought me down a bit as I passed the park; it was one of those surreal, straight out of a movie scenes where things happened in slow motion; time practically stood still, and all was quiet. I looked at the people in the park, at the ferris wheel, at the rhythmic blinking of orange, yellow, white and red lights; they were mesmerizing, yet numbing.
In a world of billions of people, many of which were celebrating with others, there I was — toting my weekly bundle of flowers, hearts of romaine, old-fashioned oats and light blue cheese dressing home.
Nobody except the people driving next to me, in front of me and behind me knew where I was. And although aware of my presence — or at least my car’s — they didn’t know me. Not that I’m “someone,” but the fact that we were all just perfect strangers was underscored.
In a world of billions, nobody was calling.
In a world of billions, nobody was expecting me at home.
In a world of billions, nobody was hoping I’d show up and join them at the park or at a bar.
Don’t get me wrong — these things are fine by me. I am, unfortunately, easily exhausted by social settings and usually don’t make a habit of seeking them out. People tend to think I’m quiet anyway, even though I can be having a perfectly good time.
I was glad that I’d had a productive day, and was comforted by the fact that I wouldn’t have a hangover of any sort to deal with tomorrow. But tonight in the suburbs, driving home from the store with partying going on everywhere made me feel a little like a boat adrift at sea: slightly directionless and hyper-aware of how vast the world is.
Out of nowhere, a question came to mind: “Is this all there is?”
I slowed as some carnival-goers crossed the street in front of me. Some parents grasped their kids’ hands, while others carried the smaller ones in their arms or on their shoulders. I smiled to myself.
No, it’s not all there is. But I realized that trying to chart a course is sometimes difficult to do alone. A good navigator and someone to help with the oars can go a long way in the great wide open.
One person is just one, but two can be a force.
Tonight I am thankful for the people in my life who make me stronger when I’m with them, who provide quality over quantity when it comes to friendship, and who made me appreciate their contributions to my life even though I wasn’t with any of them at that moment in time. But knowing that I can call on them at any hour of the day is worth everything.