“Oh! You’re from Jupiter too.”
I blinked at the hairy stranger. “Erm…am I?”
“Yeah I can tell. I can just tell.”
The hairy stranger pointed his finger across the pub table and, after a moment of hesitation, I touched the brandished finger briefly with the end of mine. I must have passed this test of Jupiter etiquette because he nodded and smiled knowingly.
I said, “Have you been back there recently? I heard they’ve built a new Waitrose on Ganymede.”
“Fuck. I hate Waitrose,” the hairy stranger said gravely, reaching for his cigarettes.
Falmouth’s Jacob’s Ladder Inn attracts interesting people. And by interesting people I mean absolute nut jobs. I say this in a very affectionate way. This pub full of waifs and strays is where I choose to stay and hang out whenever I visit. It’s cheap, clean, central, there’s alcohol downstairs and live music three nights a week. It’s also familiar. I worked there about 10 years ago as a chambermaid to fund myself through a summer between terms. It was a good gig for a socially awkward loser like me. I didn’t have to talk much, I could listen to music, and the work (mainly pressing sheets) was boring enough for me to zone out and daydream about whatever student-me daydreamed about. Croissants, possibly.
I came back this time to get away from daily life, do some writing and enjoy the Atlantic air and the ineffable Falmouth-specific atmosphere. I like being on my own, although I think enjoying solitude is entirely dependent on it being a choice. If my family and friends suddenly disappeared from my life it would feel a bit different. So in that respect it’s quite self-indulgent, to skip away from all these wonderful people going ‘F-you I don’t need you’. The truth is I do need them. I need them in order to enjoy being away from them.
When you’re on your own you can pretend you’re in an art house film. You can eat alone in restaurants and imagine that the people around you are wondering why you’re eating alone. Maybe you’ve escaped a terrible marriage. Maybe you’ve been stood up. Maybe you’re a loser with no friends, or an undercover spy. Maybe you’re on business, or waiting for a lover, or having a mental breakdown, or finding yourself.
Everyone who meets us builds an image of who we are. Humans like to sort and catalogue information, which means that we can’t help but reduce people to characteristics. That’s why we’re so surprised when people do things ‘out of the ordinary’, like have affairs, or kill someone. How can that person who we catagorised as nice and affable do something so horrible? But obviously it’s not as simple as that. We’re not as simple as that. In our family groups we try to cultivate a good image – an acceptable image. We work hard to maintain it, but it’s exhausting. That’s why it can feel so liberating – but also frightening, to be alone. You’re just you. You’re pared back, raw, warts-and-all YOU. No one knows you. No one can vouch for your good character. No one can help you. You have to be okay with the voice in your head. You have to be okay with silence.
I wonder how many people get swallowed up by their lives; by other people’s perception of them. How far can the inside self drift from the outside self? Perhaps that’s why people do drastic things sometimes, like disappear, or jump off a cliff. They became husks. Great big husky husks.
Last night I was from Jupiter. Tonight I’m ordering a pizza to my room and watching Now TV on my phone because one of the best things about solitude is of course being an absolute slob without judgement. The point of this post (apart from as a way to still not write my stupid novel), is to champion the cause of buggering off for a bit on your own. So give it a go 🙂