The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Squandering solitude

Rachael Conlin Levy

I had time. I had a notebook. And a pen filled with an hour’s ink. I had the car and a cafe in mind, a neighborhood bakery busy enough this morning to make me feel inconspicuous, but quiet enough that my lengthy seat at the counter didn’t burden my conscience. No one stood and stared, shifting from one tired leg to the other, hands heavy with cups and croissants, willing an empty seat into existence. No, there was no one there but me and two couples. The first was a small boy and his mother, translating his words for the world. No, son, it’s not a donut, it’s a chocolate croissant. Croissant, honey. We’d like a chocolate croissant. The second couple watched their black puppy from the window as they ate breakfast. He’s got the classic lines of a Labrador, the man said. Look, he’s chewing on the pebbles and spitting them out, the woman said.

I grew annoyed because my eavesdropping gathered only tiresome parenting quips and my writing produced nothing worth continuing to work on, so I set down my pen. I checked email, watched the dog watch his owners, considered a visit to the thrift store to see what treasures could be unearthed, scraped the foam from the bottom of my cup of cappuccino, doodled in the margins until the pen’s ink ran dry.

I’ve whined for solitude, but when it lands in my lap like a cat seeking a gentle hand I push it off. This has got to change, but honestly I don’t know how to make it so. My brain is a fluttery confusion of bird-thoughts around the feeder. The cat wanders away.

9 responses to “Squandering solitude”

  1. Kyna says:

    I think you just need practice.

  2. It doesn’t seem squandered time to me. You showed up with your pen. You wrote.

  3. Kyndale says:

    I don’t think you we’re squandering. We’re so programmed to think that if we’re doing something enjoyable but have nothing to show for it then its a waste.

  4. kyndale says:

    *were* spell check on my iphone. 🙂

  5. CAnn says:

    I have a similar response to solitude – so difficult to get lost in when it finally arrives. I think, even if, in the moment, it feels as if we’re not there, savoring it all, there is still an impact. Later is when I notice that my mind is a bit more still. The benefit is there, it just doesn’t show itself until we are surrounded by chaos again.
    Hope that makes sense…

  6. Rachael says:

    Wise words, friends. Thank you.

  7. Andrea says:

    I hear ya, sister. Sometimes, when I’m alone in my house, I just wander from room to room, lost in the empty quietness of it all, that I forget to put all that quiet to good use.

    And, not to dispense unsolicited advice or anything, but what I think you need is MORE solitude, so you get used to it and it doesn’t feel so rattle-around echoey inside your head anymore. And maybe a project. With a deadline? An online writing class, perhaps, for some externally-imposed discipline?

  8. Rachael says:

    Andrea, I must wait nine months for the solitude ushered in by kindergarten, but the class I’m taking now. Short stories in short six weeks. There goes my sanity.

  9. Bill C. says:

    Your ending, the feline metaphor, is so good. It wanders in, it wanders off. Reminds me of those precious moments of being oneself.

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