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Caspar David Friedrich: Two Men Contemplating the Moon (Circa 1825-30)
"I'd graduated from and into my self …"

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, I must have the fondest heart. Much of my life (so far) has prominently featured absences, usually, my own. Making sense of these distances presents a challenge, since sense-making seems sort of a team sport. Solo sense-making lacks a requisite variety and tends to reverberate more than reveal. Most of my professional life, emphasis has been placed upon teaming, with little notice of its necessary individual component, where work's actually accomplished, in AbSense of everyone else. Few things seem sorrier than team members struggling to find their identity together, when each might have brought their own personally-crafted identity from home to hook up with each other's. That homework easily gets shirked in favor of some diversion, something (ANYTHING!) to pull the disquieting attention away from self. I remain uncertain what sort of training might prove useful for developing a deepening sense of that self, the one unavoidably separated from everyone else. Maybe training couldn't help. Perhaps it's just the kind of swimming that requires innocents falling in over their heads and then figuring it out by themselves.

Separated from the mothership at birth, the separations continued afterward.
I experienced loneliness and boredom and everything in-between, and nobody'd ever before seen the stuff I'd seen between engagements. Long nights with the house creaking. Idle mornings before anyone else was even yawning. I mostly lived in my head there, body forgotten, surroundings separate somehow. I recognized myself, I guess, though I'd received no formal introduction. Proximity reassured me when nobody else was there. I'd even volunteer to slip down the basement stairs to fetch the ice cream from the freezer after dinner, though I felt pretty certain that a genuine ghost lived down there. We called him George.

I found no family awaiting me when I went out into the world. I felt that absence most. I became the ghost slipping between other people's scenes. I watched myself slipping between their schedules, not actually belonging, or so I felt. I kept my head down and my own council. I scribbled lyrics on little note cards I kept in my back pocket. I lived like a hermit twenty-some hours each day, usually feeling very far away, even from myself. I painfully grew accustomed to the wide-open spaces, and found my places of refuge. I learned to speak with myself when nobody else was around. I found wrinkles within which I felt I could exist when I felt all alone. I wrote letters home.

Time weighs tons when experienced alone. Some—professional hermits, I suspect—achieve a certain weightlessness within it, but I'm no hermit. I once expected to live a normal life featuring a wife and kids in a neighborhood where our residence was recognized by most. That's where old so-and-so lives. He keeps his yard so neatly trimmed. But I grew up to be gone more than home, to live a largely anonymous existence, often even anonymous to my autonomous self. There was often nobody else with whom to relate. I could make up whatever I chose, where ever I'd go, knowing my heart was growing ever fonder.

I sat in 7D because the aisle legroom suited me. I fancied myself the perfect stranger, always with the cheerful countenance, nose buried in some book. I took my time because that's just about all I had and nobody else seemed that interested in taking it instead. I found the rental car lot all by myself and navigated to that day's office through territory I could not relate to. I brought myself, for there was nobody else on the team. I confided what I knew for certain, which never seemed like all that much but nonetheless seemed to satisfy my clients. My vitae always seemed thin, for I'd not been through The Ivies or the typical trainings. I'd graduated from and into my self, with, I suppose, the equivalent of a Double Doc in AbSence studies and a minor in nobody else.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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