What I really want to ask: neighbor, how lonely are you?

What I really want to ask: neighbor, how lonely are you?

What I really want to ask: neighbor, how lonely are you?

someone wants to be lonely. Yet I see a bit of loneliness in many people around me. I too know the feeling. It hits me sometimes.

Lonely and alone, are not synonyms. On the contrary. With time and sandwiches, I have learned to be valuable alone. With trial and error. I like to be in the good company of busy conviviality, but I can also really enjoy my own silence. When I cycled to Copenhagen alone, I hardly felt lonely. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, at spending time with myself. But sometimes not. And then I can’t help but bite the bullet. And wait. Waiting for a companion the route that makes everything more beautiful. Waiting until I find my breath again to stare musingly into the distance. Because those days are coming. Always.

When I look around me, my empathy is sometimes working overtime. It can make me melancholy, wondering how lonely you are sometimes. And then I want to hug you. With all the love I have in me. But no, I’m minding my own business.

“I want to ask, sir, do we want to be lonely together tonight?”

I suspect them in many small corners, those dark edges of loneliness. Hidden in the pretense of everyday life. When I look in the basket of the man in front of me at the cash register and see a bottle of wine, a lasagna in an aluminum container, and a family pack of chips, for example. A forced smile to the cashier and seven euros and thirty-six cents. Please and thank you.

My shopping doesn’t always suggest loneliness. A handful of fruit, chicory, a jar of hummus, and a large brown slice. Half go straight into the freezer, in packed lunches of four. Otherwise, it will be another week of hard bread. Chicory with humus will be my supper on the couch. Because cooking for yourself takes courage and enthusiasm. And I don’t have it today. I wish the lasagna tastes like him. Heartily. And I want to ask, sir, do we want to be lonely together tonight?

But I don’t. And I mind my own business.

Or my neighbor. We haven’t spoken a word yet. We communicate through our thin terraced house wall. Like the time he woke me up with a hard-core Cohen and a little later I heard the sad news of his death on the radio. Sometimes I see him sitting through the window. Between piles of newspapers that grow an inch every week. Never see me visit. And every time we nod goodbye as we cross the front door, I’d like to ask him: neighbor, how lonely are you?

But I’m not asking. And I mind my own business.

“We ask each other how things are going, after which we quickly go our own way and tacitly extend the acquaintance pact.”

When I run into an acquaintance. We both don’t know if a good day is in order. Where the acquaintance’s pact applies because we just know each other a little bit. We don’t know one iota of each other. Then we ask each other how things are going. After which we quickly go our own way and so tacitly extend the acquaintance pact. Without me being able to think if everything is really going well with you. Because I really would care if you were lonely sometimes too.

But I’ll leave it that way. And I mind my own business.

The father or mother, can now also fill the empty nest syndrome after sweating out a teenage son. The colleague, who does not get any understanding or appreciation from his boss and who is barely noticed between the order of the day and who still drags himself to work every day. The refugee man, receives language lessons and a social worker but has no idea how to make new friends in a cold and distant country. The couple who have not found solutions for a long time, but stays together for the children. The boy with ADHD, really only has one problem and that is that his teachers are boring. The girl who does not feel grounded in the group and who laughs broadly with a silly joke, but who cries deep inside. The ghost stared at the geraniums on the windowsill.

“If you are lonely sometimes, you are probably not alone.”

And you, how lonely are you? Call it. Ask. Show it. Because if you are lonely sometimes, you are probably not alone.

And all of that. That’s my business. Our business. Because we share a street. A town. A country. A world. And I like to mind my own business

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