Sitting Alone...

My previous notebook entry ended with this shard: "Sitting alone..." I wrote that while sitting alone during lunch at school. We eat with the kids rather than have any kind of break, so I chose a back table on which I opened my notebook and pen. A colleague at the next table asked if I wanted to join her table.

"No. Thanks," I said with a wave of my hand. "I'm good." Pointing to my notebook, I was about to say, "I have things to write," but another colleague interrupted saying, "he never wants to join. He'd prefer to be all on his own." It isn't the first time I've offended her and left her feeling rejected. I shrugged, not wanting to explain and annoyed with her neediness. I went back to writing for two words — Sitting alone — but some hell broke loose with a couple kids and I got up to deal with it. Lunch ended and, collecting my notebook, I saw what I had written, uncapped my pen, and added three dots as a kind of emoji for longing.

All I want so many times is to just be left alone.

I feel like I should apologize for that desire. I feel obligated to say that of course I also enjoy being with people... I feel required to follow the habits of society, to re-join Facebook, do my running in packs, participate in group texts, watch popular shows and movies, and help my offended colleague feel better by joining her for lunch. Then I remember Naomi Shihab Nye's The Art Of Disappearing.

When they say Don't I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say why?

J.K. Rowling wrote this recently: "I suppose I must spend most of my conscious life in fictional worlds, which some people may find sad, as though there must be something lacking in my personal life." I get all of what she's saying there. Of course she has to spend most of her life in fictional worlds and thank goodness she does. I also understand how others might find it sad and wonder what she is lacking. Why choose solitude so deep it seems like withdrawal and loneliness? Because it is anything but.

I'm a little disappointed she went on apologize, saying there really isn't anything lacking in her personal life. Then again, if J.K. Rowling feels the need to apologize for sitting alone... I'm in good company.

It's not that you don't love them anymore.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished

Atop the printed agenda for the seminar I'm attending, my friend wrote "In the real world, nobody writes alone." I'm not sure I agree. I share this room with seven writers, a mug of coffee, a doughnut, a pen and notebook, and my Chromebook. If I had to give one thing up, it would certainly be the other people.

I'm really sorry about saying that, folks.

My friend told a story earlier. He had a reading to give one evening but nothing written. He locked the door and wrote for six hours, leaving time for only one read-through before presenting it to people who would brook no nonsense. I almost held my breath as he told the story not because I was nervous for the outcome — he and I can put good writing together whenever we have to — but because I was jealous. "That sounds like heaven," I said. "Locked door, hours of time, and writing." I may have sighed.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

I'm in the back of the seminar room. I have headphones playing The Bad Plus loud enough that I feel as if I'm sitting alone... My words appear on-screen through the simple magic flowing through my fingertips. Writing begins in a comforting and warm solitude that some find too lonely. Good for them. I don't want them to join me here or invite me over to their table. I need to be alone.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

Others at this seminar have been on Facebook, email, phones, the news. Maybe they can write in a crowd but I can't. Even in a crowded room I sit alone "trying to remember something too important to forget."

If I were writing in order to just be alone, I might need to apologize, but I am sitting alone because for as long as I can remember I have had a new project. It will never be finished. I need to get back to it now.

And I'm not sorry.