It’s the aloneness that I love. This, this silence, it is everything and nothing at once. I feel guilty that I don't feel guilty about it. I should hate being alone, or fear it. It's as if I've learned nothing over the last five years. But it is only when I am alone that I can allow myself to be what I am: restless. I get so restless during the day, when no one is around. I’ve been so restless all my life.
That word, restless, has always been used to describe me. On the face of it, it seems to mean not having rest, but of course when people turn to you and ask, why are you so restless? that is not what they mean at all. They mean, why can’t you sit still? Why are you always moving, pacing, shaking, getting up from the table, running, causing trouble? I remember as a kid, being so restless I could not stand it, or maybe I was fine with it, but other people couldn’t stand it. I was a girl, which is usually 75% of the problem. Sometimes people questioned how someone could spend all her time without both feet ever touching the ground at the same time. I should have calmed down over the years, but instead the restlessness increased. It’s now at fever pitch.
When I was still little, I began to feel confined in the most open spaces. I walked into a room and immediately thought of how long it would take to escape. I could work through the largest crowds seamlessly, almost unnoticed. I could make myself disappear. If there was ever a fire, or a shooting, I don’t question whether I could get out if I survived the initial onslaught, because I’ve known all the ways out of every place I’ve ever been by the time I was in high school.
High school. Senior year, my restlessness knew no bounds. I would sit at my desk and watch other students talking. I would stare at people who were occupied with the stuff of their lives, with dating and sex and the lack thereof and music and test scores and basketball. And of course none of it mattered, because of suffering and death and the terrible things people did to each other and every last person’s inability to escape any of it. But if I had said anything about what he was really thinking, there would be talk of depression or angst or, worse, therapy. I could not stand the idea of therapy, which wouldn’t have helped because the things I couldn’t escape in my mind were real things, not the stuff of narcissistic youth. And so I would shake, I would actually shake—both legs, my hands, and then, sometimes, I would leave.
That last year, if I got too restless in class, I simply wouldn’t go to the next one. I knew how to escape and somehow I knew how to avoid meaningful consequences even when I got caught, or maybe I just didn’t care, and the one person who could have punished me chose not to, saving me when I did not know how to save myself. My lack of excuse for ditching was shocking, a real failure of the imagination. I could have said I was drinking, getting high, fooling around with boys. That type of trouble would be accepted, and dealt with, and everyone could feel that the universe made sense again. I could never tell anyone that I would just leave school and walk in the rain smoking cigarettes I had stolen from my boss, alone. It was a strange rebellion, and one not to be trusted.
I never was good at vice. I never did it the right way.
But at least back then, that was when there was something to rebel against, even if it was just the notion of what others thought of my life. Now I am still restless, with nothing to show for it, nowhere to bring my ever-moving body. I go to the gym, I pace, I walk for miles, I can’t think of anything to write or, sometimes when I am around other people for a change, to say. I’m restless, even in my dreams. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. You’d think I would have taught myself something by now, that I would have talked myself out of it.
And I have, I suppose. But I was too restless to listen. Always moving, always standing still.