The worst part about getting used to someone else’s warmth, is forgetting how to sleep alone. Some nights start to feel tougher than most.
But ah, it’s not all that cracked up to be, when you really think about it, right?
First, there’s the stickiness, perhaps of sweat, and the stink of other bodily fluids. Sometimes it gets a little too hot. You’re cramped up a tiny space, or you swear to God that some part of your body’s blood circulation is getting cut off. The blanket-to-person ratios are off-balance. You tangle limbs. You turn around, and your face is buried in the crook of someone’s armpit hair. The bed feels too damned small. You become an automatic audience of gassy fanfares (farts and all). Let’s not get started on the sonorous symphony of snoring, or the flattering view up someone’s nostrils.
But then, they reach over, and pull you close. You feel their heartbeat. You feel their flushed skin. The softness of their fat, or the hardness of their bones. The rise and fall of their chest. The sound of their breathing. Their warmth, right next to you. A tangible reminder that you are not alone, not tonight.
It is a sweetly comforting feeling. I’ve always wondered why strangers crawl into bed with each other. I do believe I am beginning to understand why.
We don’t want to sleep alone. Not all the time, anyway.
Touch is one of the most basic foundations of human contact. We hug, kiss, hold hands, make love. We are reminded of how we are essentially one organism, pulsing together to the beat of life. We connect when we touch; silently, powerfully.
In this wide, wide universe, with specimens as vast as the stars, we are not alone. What a miraculous, beautiful blessing that is! It is one I hope to never take for granted.
But these days, I think, I will have to get used to sleeping alone again.
Yesterday, I wrote one of the hardest message I ever had to, in my life, and sent it. I essentially told a man who loved me, that I didn’t know if I could love him back, at least to a similar intensity. I had been agonising over this conversation for a while, and it finally came to a breaking point. I had to confront it, as difficult as it was. I felt like scum. I felt foolish, selfish, ungrateful. I cried the whole night through. But, it was done.I did what I thought was the most honest thing I could do, to honour him, and his feelings.
Despite all that, I was miserable, and I only had myself to blame.
I don’t wish to romanticise loneliness. Sure, they wax lyrical about self-empowerment and being “your own person,” before you get into relationships. They tell you to sort out your emotional baggage, or it’ll come back like a demon and haunt you relentlessly, no matter who you end up with. And yes, I largely agree with these principles.
But there are some days when I honestly just… don’t want to be alone. I had gotten a glimpse of warmth, and I craved for more. However, I couldn’t do it, at the expense of someone else.
Yesterday night, after sending the difficult text, and crying my eyes out, I texted a friend. Then, I made mushroom soup, entirely on a whim. I chopped a bowl of button mushrooms, a potato, and some onions. I simmered them with almond milk, covered the pot, and left to cry some more. The pot boiled over. I rushed back to the kitchen, and cleaned the mess on the stove. Then I added salt, herbs, and left it to simmer some more. I started crying again. My friend eventually came, close to 10. P.M. I answered the doorbell, red-eyed, with tear-stained cheeks.
We sat down on the couch, and talked.
I sobbed about how I was afraid I had made a mistake, about how I was afraid, fundamentally, that I’ll end up alone forever. What if I don’t find a man who will love me that much, ever again? What if THIS was it, and I had royally screwed myself over?
She spoke, softly, gently. Her hands were on me, her eyes were tender.
There it was. The touch, the human connection.
The conversation eventually drifted to other things, but I didn’t mind. In that moment, I was not alone.
Warmth, I had to remind myself, takes different forms too. Sometimes in a friend. A mother. A cat. A cup of tea from a stranger. It most certainly is not exclusive to lovers. But we can forget, sometimes. Somewhere along the way, within a quarter of a century, I myself had forgotten how to sleep alone. It would be a struggle, for a while, to get comfortable again, in my own silence.
But while I sleep alone (for now), I would not be lonely.
Today, I woke up, and my hand itched to text him. Itched to tell him I was sorry. Itched to ask if he would take me back. My emotions were taking me for a ride, and I knew I would cave in.
So I did the only thing I could do. Remind myself, that I didn’t have to stew in my own loneliness.
I spoke to someone else. I messaged my sister. I confided in a friend. Then, I studied. Surprisingly, I was pretty productive. I hadn’t been flowing in my work, not in a long while.
Around midnight, I went to see the supermoon with another friend, and her sister. I had my tumbler of home-brewed chrysanthemum tea with me. I sipped it on the viewing deck, underneath the stars. The “supermoon” was bright, but still small and blurry from where we were. My camera could not adequately capture it. I did not bother taking photos, and just took in the atmosphere. Couples were everywhere. The place was abound with chatter. It was noisy, chaotic.
I thought about him, and if I wanted him by my side, at that very moment. I realised that while I wouldn’t mind it, I suppose, I wouldn’t mind this temporary solace, either.
My friend came bounding back to me with her camera. We got up, dusted ourselves, and went home, both agreeing that it was an underwhelming experience.
But still, it wasn’t unpleasant. I had company of my own. Within that security, I was fine being by myself, for a while. I wasn’t envious of the couples around me. I was okay, despite the weariness in my heart.
I suppose, that’s what it is. Ultimately, as long as we have loved ones to return to, we’ll be fine. That’s something we need to remember. Company and warmth does not start and end with a lover. At the same time, solace gives us the space to properly miss, and truly appreciate the people important to us.
Tonight, I sleep alone. Tomorrow, I will wake up fine, just as loved, and entirely blessed. I will miss him, of course. But life moves on. If we’re meant to be, we’ll fall into each other’s orbits again.
Let the healing begin.