A View from the Hill: Looking for the ‘real’ in our new reality

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Excuse me. 

Sorry for intruding. 

I must have gotten off at the wrong exit. Misread the sign. 

Wow, things are so different here. What a pretty valley. Quiet.

Was I looking for something? Do I need anything? 

No, I wasn’t looking for anything and didn’t expect to find it.

Yes, I need lots of something, but I don’t know what it is or if I can get it here or anywhere. It’s very hard to find, even after you’ve been around for many, many years. Getting something. Going somewhere. Arriving and leaving.

I think I used to always be going somewhere.

No, I didn’t expect to stop anywhere because I wasn’t going anywhere, but I guess I’d have had to eventually. So maybe I’ll stick around here for a while, if you don’t mind.

By the way, who are you? What do you do? Do you have a family? A dog? A car? A house? Can you show me? Tell me about your life. What do you like to do?

Sorry, I don’t see people much these days. When I do I ask too many questions. I spend most of my time alone. Mostly eat alone. Mostly recreate alone. Watch TV alone. Always sleep alone. 

Seriously, it’s bizarre.

Lots of people choose to be alone. Why? It makes no sense to me.

I haven’t always been alone. In fact, I’ve seldom been alone in 69 years. My wife died last year and then I was alone and then a weird thing happened to everyone in the world and I was twice as alone, but it felt like more than that. It felt like an order of magnitude more alone.

It’s very surreal.

People used to love movies and books and poems about surrealism. Now I think they prefer realism as an escape from the surreal world we live in now. Like a book about a man who lives alone in the deep woods of Canada and adopts three abandoned bear cubs. It’s about deep love and devotion, and it’s a true story.

But, now that I think of it, he’s alone from other humans for huge swaths of time. 

Maybe I should get a dog. Definitely not a bear.

Then there’s another novel that’s about 1,000 pages long all about a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. It’s made up, but the characters seem very real, not at all surreal. People love that book these days.

I wonder what’s happened to Stephen King’s readership. I wouldn’t go near that stuff now. I feel like I’m in one of his books.

I don’t mind being alone sometimes, but I don’t want aloneness imposed upon me.

Yes. I’m always alone in the car. 

No, I don’t have a dog. Maybe I should. I’ve got a big family but I can’t go in their houses and they can’t come into mine. Mostly. But I cheat sometimes.

I went to visit two of my best friends the other night on the island. I hadn’t seen them in at least six months. When I saw them on the sidewalk, they were wearing masks, as was I. Even after six months of this, my first instinct when I see people I love is to lurch toward them. Then I catch myself. That’s what happened on the island.

I got very sad and nearly cried when I couldn’t see their faces. I tell myself I’ll get used to it, but I don’t. I don’t think I ever will. I love studying faces.

This life seems surreal and frightening. I doubt I’ll ever accept it.

Are you alone? I don’t see anyone around. I don’t hear anyone. Who are you and what is this place? It is so lush and green. It’s lovely. You must love it here.

Maybe I should go. Where? I don’t know. Maybe to the next exit. Maybe to the end of the road. No, I’m not looking for anything. But maybe I’ll find something. Something I can hold onto. 

No, I don’t need a new car. That’s not what I mean. I don’t want to buy something. That works for maybe two days. I mean stumble across something that I can hold onto tightly and enjoy for a long while. Something that makes me happy.

Something real.

Andrew Marsters is an award-winning journalist and former journalism instructor at the University of New Hampshire. He lives on Munjoy Hill.