{19} Alone in public

I love sitting in public spaces alone. I have never felt the angst and stress that so many of my friends experience when they go out alone. It is the best of all possible worlds for me, being surrounded by people and windows and open space without the responsibility of interacting with anyone.

I’m an introvert, and I’m neither proud nor ashamed of that, it simply is what it is, like the color of my eyes. But while I live a mildly reclusive life and claim that removing myself from humanity is a personal goal, it’s…really not. I like humanity in the abstract, I think we are an interesting if tragic species. We’re definitely entertaining to watch.

Perhaps is it the echos of tribalism in my lizard brain, but being in the midst of the chattering noise of groups of people is comforting to me. It’s why I like coffee houses and local bars. I am, perhaps, at my most disconnected in these moments, surrounded by strangers in a place that is not home, yet I feel more human in such places than I do anywhere else.

When I was an undergrad, I would go down to our local “student union” center, Hamilton, to study. I would set up on a couch somewhere in between the cafeteria and the mail/games room (where our mailboxes were situated across from the pool tables and the meager video game arcade…hey, it was 1990, don’t judge). Friends and acquaintances came and went; the boys and girls I crushed on from afar strolled by looking alluring and untouchable; various genres of music blared from assorted portable cassette players; and I got a lot of studying done.

I cannot explain how I am nourished by the chatter and the background music and the small mini-dramas that are so entertaining (from a distance), but they inspire and energize me.

I’ve missed having such a place close by, so I’m pleased that a new coffee shop has opened up, literally on my block. If you aren’t an actual college student, a “public venue” that is both welcoming and interesting is hard to come by — bookstores, coffee shops, and (some) bars are better than nothing, but not quite the same. Libraries, of course, are good locations for reading and writing, but unless it is a newer library with a “common space” where people can sit and chat, they are too somber for me.

In the meantime, a couple of cups of coffee is a small price to pay to feed my soul.

Maybe I am human after all.

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