New York is a fine place in which to be alone. To walk into a little café with an armload of newspapers and sit at the counter and read them over a bowl of chili and grilled cheese and a white mug of coffee and a waitress who says, “What else would you like, love?”—this is heaven.
As previously stated, I didn’t marry until much later in life than most. People began to wonder why I seemed to be, by all external appearances, normal, but still unmarried. As though that were a societal barometer for normalcy! Rumors were rampant. People wondered if I was gay, (Nope. Would say so if I was. In my world, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.) or hated women (Hardly! I love women! Having daughters was my secret preference.) or afraid to commit (Hummm. Maybe a bit of that.).
When I first arrived in New York all those years ago, I was inflicted with a crippling loneliness that lasted for several months. I, quite literally, didn’t know a single person here and going from the suburbs of Cleveland to Manhattan was a rough transition. At that time, New York City was a broken, dark, scary place. It wasn’t the buffed city on the hill it is today.
But then, quite suddenly, I snapped out of it. I embraced the city and its (apologies to Warren Zevon) splendid isolation. From that day forward, I was never lonely again, even during those long stretches when I wasn’t seeing someone or had few friends to call. Like Mr. Keillor, I could always belly-up to a café and eavesdrop on conversations or walk my city streets until I felt better. I found that to be a tremendous solace during my dark hours.
I believe there are people who get married as a cure for their loneliness. I’ve hung on my cross for lots of things, but loneliness was never one of them. I’ve been lucky that way. How can you be lonely or homesick when you’re heart is in the right place and you’re surrounded by 8.3 million people?
Photo by Alfred Stieglitz