The thing about “talking to yourself” is that whenever you do it, no matter what line of dialogue you are choosing, everyone thinks you are crazy. You could be explaining quantum physics, or the proper way to tie a tourniquet, and people look at you and don’t see anyone with you and they go “oh, Joe’s finally snapped. Take his shoelaces”. And then the motherfuckers take your shoelaces.
Admittedly, the first time I picked up this habit, I was in the midst of a terrible breakup. It wasn’t so much a breakup as it was a gigantic misunderstanding, a series of subtleties I didn’t pick up on that when piled all together had a catastrophic effect. But it isn’t as if this was enough to trigger some kind of latent mental illness which had come to me in my heartbreak like an angel. I was just lonely. My friends treated me like I was going to blow away on some wind and then that’d be the end of me. And I suppose in their defense, I did take it pretty hard, but it’s next to impossible to have a conversation with someone who handles you like their grandmothers’ bones, and with James and his new girlfriend (previously one of my good friends) no longer an option, I didn’t really feel like I had anyone left to talk to.
It started by replaying conversations in my mind that I missed. We always got into fights about ridiculous things, like penguins, and the shape of salt, and it ended when the total pointlessness of the fights hit us, and we laughed until we forgot. There were serious ones, a few of them, and I replayed those also, trying to end them this time before they became unforgivable. It isn’t as if I thought James was there, understand. I never saw him and never heard voices, his or any other. But I wasn’t done talking to him yet. I just wasn’t. And since I don’t really know how much he listened when he was actually in the room, especially in the later days, it’s hard to say that anything has changed.
The weird thing is, it actually made me feel better. I went to bed as if I had actually talked to him instead of lying awake as I had most nights. I was able to laugh a bit more. It helped me get by.
Since then I have begun talking to everything. I talk to my stove while I cook. I talk to my sink while I clean. I say good night to the walls before I go to sleep at night, and I tell the toilet all my secrets when I’ve had too much to drink. It feels weird to address an audience that won’t ask you condescending questions or form judgments of you for your decisions. I tried, for a while, to make the transition back to talking to people, but it just wasn’t working. No one was listening. I could tell them stories, but they didn’t understand the point of them. And you know how people are always saying how they just need someone to listen? I highly suggest a wall. It will be uncomfortable at first, until you realize that that eerie sound that you hear is no one interrupting, and the weird feeling in your stomach is what it feels like to be listened to.
My roommates didn’t understand it and that’s why I live alone now. I feel bad about that, really I do. I remember when things first started to go wrong with James, all I could think was that the last thing I wanted was to live alone. So I moved into my friend’s house, a place too small for the number of people it had been built to accommodate, and although I don’t think the house was the trigger, everything went to shit. My roommates didn’t understand what I was going through because they don’t read my stories. I would try and explain myself, tell them fables about love, about stars and sea monsters but it wasn’t of any use. They were rational people, unaccustomed to anything ridiculous. They only knew that I had stopped spending time with them, that whenever I got drunk or stoned, I was angry and incomprehensible. They took offense. Of them, the one with whom I am closest told me once that everyone has a bubble, but my bubble is thicker than everyone else’s, and it’s gigantic, almost impenetrable. I thought for a while about trying to build something like that and then realized how bad I would stink for a while, and how hot it would get. I abandoned the project and the conversation almost immediately and went back to my bedroom.
“Can you believe this shit?” I asked my typewriter. “It’s like I’m a completely different species from them. I don’t know how to fucking interact with them anymore.”
Shit. There had been a party outside, and I had counted on no one hearing me for the music outside. She stood in the doorway, drunk and obviously confused, trying to rationalize her way through what she had just seen and heard.
“You’re not on the phone?” she began. She looked around. “Who are you talking to?”
“No one.” I said.
“Hey, look, a distraction.”
I ushered her out of the room and nearly broke my neck trying to hurry, had to kick a small pile of clothes out of the way so that I could securely shut the door behind me.
“What’s going on?” she asked. I shook my head and looked around for her boyfriend but he was nowhere to be found.
“You were talking to yourself,” she said.
“No I wasn’t,” I said, louder than I’d intended. “I was talking to the typewriter.”
This didn’t help matters. The events that took place shortly afterwards are of no consequence, really, but the long and the short of is that they asked me to leave. It was for the best, I think. I needed some time to think, some time to re-gather my brain and my words, where I could have all the conversations I wanted with the stove and there’d be no one around to call me crazy.
And as weird as it is, I’ve found I’m not actually lonely anymore. There’s no one around but me, but I keep pretty good company. The hatrack welcomes me home. The armchair holds me. I don’t even listen to music with words anymore. I’ve forgotten what a human voice sounds like except for mine. And really? truly? I don’t miss it. I can actually sleep now. It’s just quiet enough.