"Is this seat taken?" I asked. It was.
I scanned the room, noted a spattering of marginally familiar faces, then located an empty seat. Over and around a course of legs and bags, I settled in. I stuck out like a palm tree in a desert of white faces with fifty shades of grey hair. Undoubtedly, I was the youngest person in the room -- by decades.
This morning, the Friends of Langley Library presented librarian and author, Nancy Pearl.
I've been looking forward to her visit for weeks.
Two weeks ago, I invited a beloved girlfriend -- an in-pencil friend -- to join me, and she accepted. I invited her knowing that she has a big heart, she makes big plans fueled by good intentions, but follow-through isn't her forte. My friend worries incessantly, bears the weight of the world on her shoulders and often feels unwell. I never use ink to mark down our dates, and I only assume I will see her when I actually do. I have a handful of friends such as this. And another handful otherwise.
So 45 minutes prior to showtime, on the heels of a forseeable cancellation, I sighed with a mixture of disappointment and relief and decided to go solo.
Another friend and I spoke earlier this week about loneliness. She described a dull heartache and longing for her person. Although I tried to empathize, she explained that my brand of lonely is not the same as hers. "You ALWAYS have someone around in your world," she said. "If you ever feel lonely, you can roll over in bed and have someone to talk to." True, but crammed in the theater this morning -- a nameless book lost in a library -- I was reminded of our conversation.
Yes, I am currently writing this post during the pauses in a conversation with Maya about Greek Mythology, while Cole happily crunches on his afternoon snack and interjects the details of his day. Yes, I have shared my bed with Paul for 13+ years, and felt secure that if I ever need to roll over and talk, I almost always can. Nevertheless, I too have cried hot, sloppy, achy tears. Some of the loneliest times in my life have been in the company of both family and friends.
Silently, I sat in the hum and hullabaloo of conversation around and about me this morning. The librarians with front row seats whispered in one another's ears. A woman cackled, the man beside me leaned across my lap to make small talk, two women waved and called out to their tardy companions, and the taken seats in front of me were filled. A lonely situation, indeed, however I felt anything but. With notepad in hand, I took note.
An empty stage. An area rug. A vase with fall flowers atop a tall black table. A microphone in its stand...
I thought of my friends -- my persons of present and of old -- and I sighed. Oh, how our friendships have changed. The connections -- most fewer and farther between -- they are quiet and different. Such is this time and this season.
I giggled when I looked around this room full of mature strangers, each of us gathered mid-morning with something important in common: a love of books. My people. And as the over head lights dimmed and a soft spotlight warmed the microphone, I thought of my closest friend of late, whose company I covet and quite enjoy -- the sore thumb sitting in my seat.
"The books I recommend rarely have anything in common," Nancy began. "But in this year's list, I would say there is a common thread. It is connections."