There was a man who lived in city. He lived in a small room three floors up from the street and frequently felt very lonely. Now when I mention the city I won't say which one, as this might be misleading. It would prove less confusing to say which city it wasn't rather than which it was. For instance if I said it was London you might conjure a picture in your mind, perhaps of a man sat in a small badly wall papered room, with a sloping roof, where through the narrow frame of a crooked window grey clouds are raining. Or if I said Paris you might imagine a boarding room, the sort with an elderly landlady and a Persian cat. Then you might imagine our man spending his days walking up and down the boulevards between his garret and a small café where he sits contemplating his isolation. But this is incorrect.
No our man sits alone in a city just as any other city. And I won't name him either- for a name can be equally distracting. Imagine for an instance if he was called Quentin or Percy you might, without prior thought or malice, come to a presumption of his social standing. You may believe our man is a representative for a social class. You might make further deductions and qualify his isolation is the result of the weight of expectation someone of his birth right might endure. This is not correct.
Or if his name was Isaac you might think his ethnicity was important, that perhaps two thousand years of Jewish heritage and hardship hold some responsibility for his isolated disposition. It doesn't- It might- but in this case it doesn’t or at least if it does it is not relevant. So we won’t call him anything. In fact it barely matters that he is a he at all. He might be a woman- which he isn't- but he could be, it's possible... but he's not, most importantly because of all the differing factors that come to mind when contemplating the loneliness of a woman in the this the twenty first century- the details of which are both important but not essential to this story. No nothing is important but equally nothing is especially unimportant here except the individual and their solitude. You see we are trying to get at a rounded picture of this man and his loneliness, unsullied by details, observing it as you might observe sunlight in a painting of a bowl of fruit.
Still we will allow some level description - if we are to go anywhere at all. Lets say our man is sat on a bed that is laundered with white sheets. It is a single bed, with wooden posts. There is a window that is open about three inches. The sounds of traffic is rising from the streets below, carried on a breeze that is gently swaying the cotton curtains. In the corner of the room is an oak wardrobe, about seven foot in height. It’s door is open and four blue shirts are visible hung up beside two pairs of black cotton trousers. There is also a pair of brown leather shoes at the foot of the wardrobe. On the wall of this room is an oil painting, roughly eight by twelve inches in size. It depicts the Niagra falls but this could just as easily picture the Taj Mahal or the Tower of London. There is very little else inside the room.
At this point questions might arise such as, 'Does this man have no friends or family? A girl friend perhaps or wife?” “Or what about job?” You might say, “Or hobby? How does this man expel his excess energies?”
But there are no answers to these questions, it’s as if these are the wrong questions or more accurately questions have no place here. Asking questions in this instance is akin to trying to obtain the weather forecast by asking a gust of wind or by attempting to tell the time by interrogating a shadow on the wall. You see if I named our man’s employment it would inevitably lead you to all manner of unnecessary deductions. However to keep your interest lets say he does have a job. Lets say he works the weekday hours of 9 to 5 and that his position is within administration. The type of administrative role found so typically in today's abstract bureaucracy. Lets say it involves the duties of paper filing,copying with the mandatory completion of management reports and risk assessments. But he could just as easily spend his days digging holes or chopping down trees.
“What about the evenings?” You might say, “Are there no bars? Clubs? Theater troops? Art classes?” The answer to which is yes, this being a big city just as any other. Again all yes. All over people are meeting and organising themselves, starving off the loneliness. But they are no use to our man who sits lost, absorbed in loneliness, like a winter field stays frozen by the shadow of overhanging trees.
Still he will venture out now and again, when in more imaginative mood. Like a moth to the lights he will wander the evening streets. Occasionally he will go to cinema and sit in the back row but feeling detached he forgets how to enjoy the film and finds himself laughing during the death scenes and weeping at the jokes.
Later he might sit in restaurant or a small café and eat his evening meal. Perhaps he will have a beer or a glass of schnapps and will eat a dish involving potatoes and meat that’s prepared in no particular way. There he may sit, looking out of the windows watching the passing city scenes.
Maybe a woman will walk by and because it is summer she wears a white cotton dress, her blond hair falls around her shoulder down to her breast. Then she meets a man in an pale grey suit who is holding flowers. They kiss. Or maybe the woman is alone and she is carrying a shoe with a broken heel. She flags down a taxi then disappears into the city. Also there are other people too - couples perhaps filing out of the theater into the rain. There is glee amongst them, they are conjoined in the aftermath of a shared event. They take to the dark wind blown streets like wild salmon into a river, there brightly lit bodies slipping silently into the night, leaving only the echo of their foot falls and evaporating laughter.
Not that any of this really matters. Nothing really matters at all, not to our man who continues to sit alone, eating and drinking and staring outwards.
Lets say our man carried on this way for many years. He never left the city and never changed job. He found a woman who stayed with him for several years before leaving again. His final years continued in the same manner, loneliness swallowing his days like heavy snow falls. This is almost entirely the whole story and in reflection barely a story at all.