15 November 2022 | BY ANDJELKA JANKOVIC | Life
I belong here, I belong with you, and all of our questions belong here, too
It tastes like melancholy jazz or a raspy blues song playing at the back of a bar while no one is listening. A warm red that swishes around your mouth. The chill of a breeze, grazing you unexpectedly. It would be the colour of your mother’s handwriting.
I feel it in an instant when I see a mountain, or a fireplace, or a cabin in the mountains with a fireplace — throw in a Bon Iver song and it feels like I’ve been punched in the stomach.
I thought I knew longing until it devoured me.
Like a wave that hits you out of nowhere and suddenly, you’re swimming for your life.
It was a Saturday night and I was alone. I had just seen my friends for a picnic in a park about an hour from where I live, with no car to get back home. We had all said our goodbyes and went our different directions for dinner. I was standing there on a street corner as the sun was setting, wondering what I would do. I had zero plans.
A subtle panic came over me.
Normally being by myself does not bother me, in fact, I seek out beautiful aloneness. I also love connection when it is right and real, but I protect my solitude.
On this particular evening in early spring when the air was just balmy for the first time, I was thick with a heaviness I could not place.
I got out my phone (that old trick) and wrote a message to meet up with a friend who lives nearby, then I deleted it. I opened an app, spent less than thirty seconds checking for an invitation to hang out, and then I closed it.
I put my phone away, sat down on a planter box in someone’s front garden and asked myself – what exactly was this feeling?
Excitement, anxiety, loneliness — I know them well, but it was none of those.
Could it be melancholy or sorrow? No.
And then it landed. It was longing.
Longing is the biggest clue to the life you want.
For your beloved.
For your country, a plot of land, an environment.
For something you had just yesterday or have never had before.
To come to love after so much time without it.
It’s how Rilke says, “I am made of longing” because sometimes it sure feels like that. A nameless ache can follow me around, sparked by a song or a scent in the air, unexplainable for days.
It was rising in me now, cinematic even; like the beginning of a saxophone solo. This longing was coming in strong.
Would you even believe
when it finally happens
how easy it is to feel
without any proof
that love may be, could be,
longer than time. — Alex Dimitrov
I suddenly realised all I wanted was the ease of ready-made plans with someone, my person.
I sat with this new feeling, on said planter box in a neighbourhood I used to live in for many years, talking it out.
And so I considered: do I, at this moment, go towards or away from myself? This is the central question of solitude.
Longing is a creative and spiritual practice.
Every time I think I have conquered longing, I reach a new threshold.
I started walking towards the main street where the city begins, having decided that the night would take me somewhere and I would take myself out.
I spotted a special place that I hadn’t been to in a long while – a Parisienne meets Perth natural wine bar, the kind of place that drips in chicness and coupledom.
I walked up to the counter and after realising they now take bookings, I replied: “No, just a table for one please”. The waiter looked at me with that face that says ‘ain’t gonna happen’, but it did. There was one free table that I could have for one hour; a candlelit nook.
I no longer pray—
I ache, I desire,
I say “yes” to my longing. — Chelan Harkin
I was seated and the waiter took away one plate and one set of cutlery and offered to hang up my coat. I always love the elegance of having your coat hung up for you.
There is great beauty in eating out alone, I find I can’t take my eyes off people that do. This is something I have been doing actively for almost a decade of my life, ever since I landed on my first night in San Francisco on a bar stool in a vegan Mexican restaurant in the Mission.
So many of us are starving for life and have no idea until the end when we look back and see the uneaten banquet. — Atticus
I don’t really like the word ‘single’ when it comes to labelling someone. For one, the alternative ‘double’ doesn’t make much sense and as I always like to remind people — you are not alone, you have yourself.
Something to ponder: Are you alone, or are you aloneness?
On this particular night with self (linguistic note here), I decided to celebrate with gluten and ordered an incredible homemade sourdough bread with just-churned butter that tasted like cheese and an insanely good white bean dish that makes your soul dance, as I did in the seat.
A glass of rouge in hand, with beats that made me feel like I was in Morocco and olives that tasted like I was in Tuscany.
This was peak date night success.
Am I a loner? No, not intrinsically. I am the most introverted extrovert I know.
Did I want to share this with someone? Yes, sure. But this other person has to feel as good and freeing as my solitude.
But the longings come and go. It’s important to know that this is plural because there is more than one.
The thing is, everyone is not you.
The longing is this.