On the weekend I was catching the train back home after a pleasant afternoon at the movies.
Well, pleasant apart from the middle-class mums whooping with delight as their children threw popcorn all over the lobby and stamped in it, as if participating in some bizarre modern art experiment.
But, I digress.
As the train rolled and rocked back toward the city, with beautiful shades of sunset illuminating the countryside, I started to feel incredibly lonely. I had nobody to share this moment with.
I texted a friend when I got home, who himself has been going through some tough times, and he wrote back:
“Loneliness can also be empowering – teaching you the things you appreciate about yourself and the things you have to offer someone else.”
I let this sink in over the last couple of days to decide whether I believed it or not.
I certainly don’t feel empowered about loneliness. Loneliness, to me, conjures up images of sitting in the dark in a one-bedroom apartment eating baked beans out of a tin.
So let’s break it down. What do we appreciate about ourselves? Well, I suppose firstly that I can appreciate the simple things in life. I still find train journeys exciting. I like watching the world go by. I might feel less excited if I were on the Docklands Light Railway in London, but even then the views are so depressing that you can still appreciate them – they’re like a scene from the nuclear holocaust drama “Threads”.
What do I have to offer someone else? People often use the word “nice” to describe me.
Arnott’s make a biscuit called “Nice”. Apparently it’s supposed to be pronounced “neece”, as in this coconut-flavoured delight is named after the city in France. But let’s forget that for a second, because it ruins my bullshit argument.
If you were offered a Nice biscuit, you’d have one. They taste good, and you’ve been primed to like it because the word “nice” is baked into it. But you wouldn’t eat a whole packet. You’d undoubtedly move onto a Tim Tam. Those are the kind of biscuits you consume by the packetload, and rush off to the supermarket at midnight to buy more of.
I once was arranging a meeting with the editor of a gay magazine in the UK, an ex-pat Australian, and he asked me to bring Tim Tams with me from New Zealand. They’re a desirable commodity.
What does nice mean? The ever reliable Dictionary.com gives us several adjectives: pleasing, agreeable, delightful, amiably pleasant, kind.
That sounds like a lightweight British comedy starring Maggie Smith. The sort of film where the comic climax involves someone spilling a glass of wine over lunch when a character inadvertently makes a faux pas with a light sexual double entendre.
We’re all familiar with the aphorism “nice guys finish last”. There is great debate over the truth of it, depending on whether your view of the world involves a glass half-empty or one that’s half-full.
Maybe the problem is that the glass is both half-full and half-empty. That’s complicated. It means there isn’t an easy answer.
What do we appreciate about ourselves, and what do we have to offer others? I don’t know if I’m capable of formulating those thoughts, like a spec list for a new iMac, much less when I’m in the throes of loneliness.
I’m sure the answer will come to me if I keep staring out the window. I just passed a building in Prahran with “FUCK GLUTEN” tattooed on it. I want to find the person who wrote it and beat them to death with a bread stick.
The view really is quite lovely.