To travel alone out of state for several days is a certain kind of luxury. Yes. There is training all day long in a stale training room that could be identical to the one in your own office basement, but then training ends a few minutes earlier than planned. You now find yourself anonymous in a new city with new people and a new zeitgeist you’ve never been wrapped up in before.
And to travel alone means you don’t feel guilty, finally, to have your headphones blaring music which you are probably humming or badly singing harmonies to just under your breath to make it even worse. So you are walking down streets and looking in windows and in people’s eyes with a soundtrack of your favorite music pretending as if, since they will not see you again, that they don’t see you staring at them now. While you hum or sing badly just under your breath.
And then to travel alone means you pull up a chair and sit at the bar top with a book and more time than you remembering having in the last several weeks with nothing planned or pushing in on it from every angle. So you pull out the book, order a drink and maybe an appetizer, and then you sit and watch the people lining the rest of the dimly lit bar top, the people scattered at low, round tables along the edges of the restaurant, the people walking hand in hand down the sidewalk who may or may not live there but you suspect they do.
And suddenly, you begin to see something very familiar in this out-of-state place at this out-of-state bar top as this anonymous observer. You begin to see couples and groups and buddies and girlfriends laughing or bitching or crying or pontificating, and you see yourself and your friends at your tables in your restaurants on your streets. You see people passing plates and tasting each other’s drinks and it seems as though you belong because that’s what you do when you sit in your place with your people.
To travel alone out of state for several days, followed by your own soundtrack and land suddenly in the world of other humans, you ultimately find your own humanness. You find your friends and your enemies and your struggles and your hopes as you watch them pass the plates and share their glasses, and something feels oddly familiar. In the presence of the humanity of others, we find our anonymous selves at home. And at home, we find ourselves.
Lantern Restaurant, Chapel Hill, NC