On Solitude

“The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.”                                                                                                                       — Norman Cousins





  1. the state of being or living alone; seclusion
  2. remoteness from habitations, as of a place; absence of human activity
  3. a lonely, unfrequented place
  4. a detachment; a separation from others


There was a moth trapped in my window, once. As it fluttered helplessly between the screen and the glass, I wondered how, since it was clear that it could not escape on its own, it came to find itself in such a predicament. I didn’t wonder long. I forgot about the poor creature until I found it days later. Stiff. Curled. Its brittle legs turned to the sky just outside the screen. Its wings gray like dust.


A young girl lies close to her ceiling. Her eyes are wide in the dark. She can just see the shapes of objects around the room, their outlines barely distinguishable as a dresser and a laundry basket of clothes. Stretching an arm up, her thin bed sheet falls to one side. Her fingertips brush the rough texture of the ceiling. Luminescent plastic stars glow against her fingertips.


Blue whales are the loudest animals on this planet. Their groaning songs are so low that they are indistinguishable to the human ear, but they are able to hear each other across hundreds of miles of ocean. Except for one. He has no given name. He is the only one of his kind. This whale sings in a solitary voice. While other whales in those same seas sing at about 15 or 20 Hertz, this lonely whale sings at 52 Hertz. His call rings out through the inky black depths of the ocean, unanswered. Each moan and rumble of his pleated throat sounds like the low bass of a tuba. He is barely audible to the human ear, and yet we can identify with his mournful mating song.


A whisper is muttered softly by her temple. She can barely hear it past the guttural noises emanating from her throat, choked sobs, strangled moans. She can’t control it but still she fights to keep the salt from flowing down her cheeks. She fights even when she knows she will lose. She fights even though sorrow has wrapped itself like a blanket around her heart. Even though she is numb to the arms that try to hold her, stroke her hair, comfort her. She fights because there’s nothing else to do.

“It’s okay to be sad.”


She is an adult now. Her bed faces the opposite wall that it used to and her feet nearly reach the end of the mattress. The quilt is tucked like a cocoon around her frame. She twists the bed sheet between her fingers, clutches the fabric close to her chest. Staring out into the darkness, the lack of light so complete she can’t make anything out.


Originally published in the Spring 2016 edition of The Helix magazine. 


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