Eating Alone

“A meal eaten alone and in silence is no pleasure. So I fell into the habit of reading while I ate. In that way I can lose myself completely for a time. The days I don’t read I feel like a barbarian brooding over a chunk of meat” - Richard E. Byrd, Alone.

I remembered the quote all of a sudden, when I realised I have gotten into the habit of eating in the kitchen, over the sink, gobbling up sandwiches and hastily made curries breathlessly. I was just finishing my turkey sandwich. German black bread is usually very tasty, but all I was tasting was dry mush, all the tomatoes and cheese barely registered. I got concerned with the numbness of it all. I wondered if I had become Byrd’s barbarian.

Civil societies take solace in leisurely activities, like dinner, watching theatre, going for a walk etc. I was doing pretty much all of these, but with no pleasure. Everything was dry like the sandwich, a chore, that I knew I had to do to keep myself sane. It was no secret Northern winters are tough, specially when one is alone, and with a pandemic going on, but this was the first time that reality drilled into my bones. The unavailability of human warmth dug deep into my psyche like an open-pit mine peeling flesh off Mother Earth. I was bleeding, figuratively.

I fell on the bed; The pillow was still cold and wet. I realised it was wet from my tears. I noticed the faint faint lullaby from Olafur Arnalds’ new album was playing on the stereo. My feet were cold. I closed my teary eyes.

I was looking at a fjord. It was foggy. J was standing right there, few feet away from me, next to the cliff. She looked at me, and smiled. I invited her to take my hand, she didn’t take it. She turned back and started walking away. I turned my attention to the fjord. It was cold; My feet were cold. I looked down and saw myself barefoot, in my pajamas. My feet were cracked and bleeding, as if I had walked miles in this rocky terrain without shoes. Someone was playing a violin in the distance, it was a sweet sound. I took a step towards the cliff and looked down. The water was calm and milky white. Then I heard my mother calling me. I turned around and saw my mother looking at me, cautiously. I saw my father, taking a photograph of me on his old analog camera. “Let’s go home”, my Mother called out, “It’s cold out here.”

I woke up.

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