Discover more from Beyond with Jane Ratcliffe
Now I Am Become Loneliness: On Inheriting The Lonely Gene
Hello Beyonders! This week’s essay is written by me. It’s about loneliness. After my head injury, my life changed dramatically—and I became acquainted with loneliness in ways I’d never experienced before and didn’t truly understand were possible. All my life, I’ve been an introvert spending heaps of time on my own balanced with a vibrant social life grounded in a robust community. Some of my twenty-five years in NYC included the early aftermath of the accident and my friends rallied round. But when I moved to Michigan and my health collapsed before I’d established any sort of community, I experienced profound isolation which, as symptoms lingered, led to ongoing loneliness. This isn’t the same as being alone, something I’ve enjoyed and needed. During the pandemic, when loneliness manifested seemingly everywhere, I began to consider the roots of it within myself. Perhaps it had always been with me and being such a doer, I’d kept myself busy enough to not recognize it. I researched the genetics of loneliness and also considered stories about my parents’ upbringing in London during WWII, stories I treasured, in a different light. The result is this essay. I hope you enjoy it.
Next Week: Interview with Rebecca Makkai. It’s so good! For one thing, she explains how she pulls off all those intricate, page-turning plots! And I’m prepping to speak with Ross Gay. Let me know if you have questions for him!
Now I Am Become Loneliness: On Inheriting The Lonely Gene
When the pandemic begins, I’m already shrouded. My modest home and garden in Michigan have been my refuge for over a decade; a refuge for which I’m grateful and a refuge I’m working hard to sally forth from more often. In the early months, like so many with chronic health issues, I’m uniquely equipped to deal with loss: of self-identifiers, of adventure, of community, of wanting and getting. While friends and family and neighbors and front-line workers and strangers experience sweeping, often devastating, losses, very little in my life alters.
The one thing that does change is the loss of my health care providers; as someone with head and brain injury, a result of a tabletop mounted in a furniture showroom snapping its rope and falling on my head, most of my support has come from alternative avenues such as cranio sacral therapy and acupuncture, and these clinics quickly shut. With them goes not just support for my physical body but my weekly connection to a form of companionship. I’m not without friends, but the challenges of my health translate into challenges in my social life. I live alone and without these practitioners my social interactions shrink to waving at neighbors as we water our gardens or exchanging six-feet-apart pleasantries with fellow dogwalkers when I’m out with Delilah, my delighted-by-the-world Hershey-brown mutt. At first, this is enough—I’ve endured the unendurable (over two decades of head trauma) already and am tough as fuck—but as the months mount and there are health complications to my health complications and then winter arrives, the soggy heaviness of isolation drags me down.
My dad lives about an hour away and wants to visit, but he’s ninety-three and I’m concerned that despite my hard lockdown, I may somehow be a carrier and kill him. And conversely, he’s not locking down as hard as I, and I’m concerned he may give Covid to me. I can’t fathom adding more health issues to my life. But my father is robust in body and mind and having, along with my now deceased mom, grown up in London during WWII cannot fathom letting external events, no matter how dire, dictate his life.
“Is this like the war?” I ask during one of our daily phone chats.
“The two don’t compare,” he says quickly. Pauses. Then: “Except for the continual fear, of course.”
This war is as much a part of me as my own lived experiences. In part, because I know my parents’ stories by heart; in part, because science shows my genes have been inextricably altered by my parents’ traumas; in part, because my life-long mesmerization by their war has altered the neuropathways of my brain in the way addictions do.
The fear my father mentions is inherently lonely. No two people experience fear the same way, nor will the same elements lift it for all. I’m well acquainted with fear and, by extension, loneliness. Continual fear, continual loneliness.
Loneliness has become my skin. It’s my organs, it’s my toes, my tongue, my breasts. I carry it with me everywhere like a wadded Kleenex shoved in my pocket. As Robert Oppenheimer witnessed the first detonation of an atomic bomb, he called upon the words of the Bhagavad-Gita, “Now I am become death.” Now I am become loneliness, I think, ending the call with my father with our usual “I love you,” having again declined a visit, and drawing the curtains for the night.
While the loneliness of my fifties is deeper and wider and far weightier than anything I’ve known before, I recognize now it’s always been with me. The first proof of this to return to me, while not chronologically correct, is my teenage nights, sprawled in bed with headphones snug against my ears: Neil Young, Springsteen, Blondie, The Clash. The needle crackles in its vinyl groove of my turntable; beneath the sheets, my polka dot nightie damp against my thighs from the lack of upstairs AC; the red dot of my amp’s power button bright against the darkness; my hunger gutsy and rolling as my family sleeps until, at last, the early sun fashions my room pink. How big my future is then. How wide. How magnificent. The music exquisitely plumping the pockets of loneliness that hollow my chest and belly. How beautiful I feel on those long, lost nights, how certain, buoyed by minstrels’ promises and my conjured sense of imminent belonging and happiness.
I was full of yearning then so deep, so hard it made my jaw hurt, it made my breastbone throb. But there was beauty in it. I was scared, but young and strong. My heart had been broken in countless little ways, perhaps beyond repair, but I didn’t understand that yet.
As the pandemic progresses, I sit in my back garden, my kitty Rudy in my lap, Delilah eating grass beside me, and watch a mother sparrow feed her open-mouthed baby, both parties shrieking, while the daddy perches atop the birdhouse my dad and I erected for them over a decade ago. How primal this love. How indestructible. As with humans, these parents have passed on their life experiences to their babies not only through example but also their genes. A bird who has been chased by a cat will imprint their offspring with a distrust of cats; a bird who knows of safe feeding grounds will imprint their offspring with a source of abundance. And so on.
As a breeze loosens the thick scent of honeysuckle from the bush behind me, I consider that my loneliness has deeper roots than my lived experiences. That my parents’ loneliness may be imprinted upon me, may have created a thaumaturgic foundation so as my own loneliness trickled in, it was easily magnified. I imagine my mother, a wisp of a girl, the youngest of nine with a father who yells and walks off jobs (he’s an exceptional bricklayer with a drinking problem) and disappears and then returns, and a mother to whom my mother is devoted. They’re poor in London and it’s wartime. Her small feet thud against the pavement—sturdy, directed. Her brothers are off at war; her sisters, too, scattered about the country in support of the war effort; her mother, teeth worn to nubs, scrubs clothing in the cumbersome dolly or queues in interminable lines for rations. My mother is alone more than not, her brow a furrow, her self-talk dogged. Yet she, too, is full of hope. How her heart races; I feel it daily inside mine. The skies of fighters and bombers embedded in searchlights. Such wonder! she thinks, in thrall. Across the Thames, the bombs fall and rattle her bones, tangle her nervous system as she and her father, home now and sober, walk the lightless streets of Dagenham and she smells the tea on his breath and the worn wool of his coat and she prays the war never ends. What a strange prayer, she knows this. But this is their ritual; their sacred union. They know the streets despite the pitch darkness, my mother and this grandfather I will never meet, walking so sometimes their bodies touch and a thrill of delight, of intimacy, shoots through her young body. What does she truly know of intimacy at such a young age, just twelve, with so many of her family gone? Buildings are missing or crumbled, the air carries the faint scent of gas and dampness; she wishes her life were easier. I want, I hear her saying. I feel the dryness of her mouth, the flicker of her wide, dark eyes, the way she times her steps in rhythm: I want, I want, I want. And then her shoulder brushes against her dad’s elbow and she is alive with the extraordinary. And then their bodies part and she is loneliness again, more painful than before.
And my father, a slim athletic build when I know him after years of rugby, yet here he is at twelve being teased at school for being pudgy and teased at home for ears that (to his daughter’s eye imperceptibly) stick out. Also the youngest, this time of four; also poor in London, somehow fitting mother, father, four children, grandfather, and three Irish lodgers into a home with two bedrooms and a box room. He too with a father who yells. And before war is even declared, whoosh, my father is evacuated, suddenly living amongst cow pastures and empty blue skies and a narrower river. Everything is new. And his pudgy body throbs for what he left behind. He, too, is wanting. His adored older brother off guarding German prisoners and later, a red beret, facing the impossible at Arnhem; his adored oldest sister working as a telephonist at the world’s first radar station; his other adored older sister working as a comptometer; and he too young to participate. I want, he thinks, ashamed of his age in such dire circumstances. Such loneliness, this wanting. I feel it in the clench around my lungs when I reach for deep breaths. I want, he tells the cow trapped in the river. I want, he tells the downed Dornier from which he nicks some shrapnel after the soldier guarding tells him to run off home. I want, he tells the air as he rides his borrowed bike faster and faster down the dirt lane to pick hobs—his earnest contribution to the war effort. I want, he stares at the ceiling in the quiet of this new house his body too hopeful for sleep. And then, years later, he’s home and his family, all separated by the war, keep their stories deep within themselves until much later. They have become new siblings, new children, and nothing is the same. And all the years of accumulated loneliness is within him, waiting to mix with my mother’s loneliness. And I await them both.
There is, I learn, an Evolutionary Theory of Loneliness. Amongst other things, it posits that, while potentially detrimental, loneliness is not without redeeming qualities. Yes, lonely people become ill more easily, die at younger ages, struggle with sleep, don’t trust as easily, and are exhaustingly hypervigilant, but, on the upside, this anguish serves as a motivating factor to connect with people—and thus, presuming the connection is sexual, plays an important role in human evolution by increasing the chances of survival and passing on their genes to the next generation.
An earlier Dutch-U.S. study working with twins drew a similar conclusion: Loneliness can indeed be genetically passed down and may have developed with hunter-gatherers unwilling to share food during times of famine. By surviving, they were then fit enough to propagate during more abundant times. This study was based on data from 8,387 participants and found that fifty percent of identical twins and twenty-five percent of fraternal twins shared the trait of loneliness. Prior to the study, common wisdom held that shyness, poor social skills, and an inability to form strong attachments were the root causes of loneliness. But, in fact, the reverse may be true. People with a predisposition for loneliness may process social interactions differently than those without.
More studies have followed, including one by University of California San Diego professor Abraham Palmer which was the first genome-wide association study of loneliness. Careful to note this is life-long loneliness, rather than a passing state, the research found that genetic differences accounted for between seventeen and twenty-four percent of how the 10,760 participants answered questions pertaining to loneliness. In other words, seventeen to twenty-four percent of a person’s loneliness was inherited. This could account for why a person with five close friends and an active social life might feel content while another person with five close friends and an active social life might feel lonely.
Yet another study—this time with 487,647 participants and in the UK—identified fifteen specific gene regions linked to loneliness.
I ponder these predictions: Will I die young? My mom made it to eighty-eight and my dad is a robust ninety-five, still travelling the world. I’m certainly hypervigilant, have struggled with sleep, trust very few people, and, since the head injury, health issues have plagued me. In “Now Here We Go Again, We See the Crystal Visions,” Kiese Laymon, one of our greatest truthtellers of vulnerability and healing, notes the “freedom in loneliness” after watching a TikTok video of doggface208 skateboarding along a freeway ramp sipping Ocean Spray and listening to Fleetwood Mac. He writes in Vanity Fair: “I feel with every ounce of joy in my body, doggface208’s acceptance of fear and joy.” And, he’s right, there is a beautiful freedom to this acceptance: this untethering. Everything becomes weirdly possible. Including, perhaps, defiance of these very studies that prognosticate my demise.
These studies confirm that genes can indeed pass on loneliness. And that certain variants leave those with them more susceptible to circumstances than those without might be. One study, The Genetics of Loneliness, focused, in part, on behavioral genetics and concluded “The heritability of loneliness, therefore, is substantial.” The weight of my bones, even amongst beloveds, is proof enough for me. Furthermore, lonely people tend to marry other lonely people and their loneliness is transmitted through nongenetic means.
And so I—and my weighty bones—came into being.
In the early fifties, my parents marry, depart from Southampton on the Greek ship Olympia for America, and settle in Michigan, where I’m born. One of my mom’s sisters follows, marries an American who fought in the war, and they have two daughters. For most of my life, this was the extent of my known blood family.
Across the pond in England, and also in Australia, my family sprawls. My parents’ siblings have piles of children who then have more children. Other than the occasional visit from an aunty or cousin who shoulder suitcases stuffed with Cadbury bars and Marmite I’m not able to spend time with them though I yearn to. Every shared moment both awakens and distresses (with the looming awareness that we would soon part) my young heart.
Research shows that children who are separated from their parents or caregivers experience persistent stress that alters their brain, increases cortisol levels, and locks their already exhausted bodies into flight, fight or freeze. According to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, director of the Trauma Center in Boston and a childhood trauma expert, they go on to have challenges trusting people, forming meaningful relationships, and regulating their emotions. It’s not hard to imagine that a lesser version of this might spill over into a child separated from her grandparents, aunties and uncles, and cousins; those who are known to her without being known. I hear the stories of Aunt Gwennie marrying by proxy Uncle John, a Japanese POW, whom she barely knew (but would later grow to deeply love) whilst he was settling their home in South Africa and she was still in London; my mom and my grandfather watching Woolrich Arsenal burn from the streets of Dagenham; my maternal grandfather upon being reprimanded for missing work the day before walking off the job as a bricklayer and announcing to his boss: “Lick ‘em on, I’m off” and off he went. And so many more. I cherish these lores, can recite them myself, but nevertheless my missing extended family are like characters in a fairytale. And just as with fairytales, the moral of their stories influence my own.
Growing up, I’m intuitively drawn to big families as if they can calm my nervous system, assuage and strengthen my heart, offer the steady footing that I lack. And they do. They become a type of blood; they become family. But later in life, when at last I begin meeting more of my overseas relatives, my body transforms: my calves grow heavy, my feet gain traction; I can feel the power of the deep molten core that supports us, the layers of rocks and minerals, the fissures between them oozing finger-thin trickles of water that flow into slow moving rivers. English rivers. I am found.
“I didn’t know you’d been lost,” my dad says, when I share how easily my breaths came strolling the rocky beaches of Seaford or circuitous streets of London; how deep my sleep, how bright the moment of opening my eyes.
“I didn’t either,” I say, astounded by the mysterious life of my body.
This relentless ache of loss. This insatiable wanting. These flutters of my heart. All along they had been grief. But now I was found. And my hunger grew.
My parents are immigrants. For much of my life, I didn’t think of them in these terms. They were simply Brits who had moved to America. They didn’t place much emphasis on the immigrant experience. When I graduated from the University of Michigan, there was a celebration not because I was the first generation to go to college within both families, which I was, but simply because I lived up to one of the expectations put upon me. My mom’s school was bombed, so her education hadn’t gone beyond age twelve; my dad needed to contribute to the household, so he began apprenticing in the tool and dye trade at fourteen. By the time I graduated from Columbia, I had a greater sense of how I was altering the lineage but, once more, my parents made no mention of this.
No doubt because they’re white with accents Americans find charming, their integration into this country wasn’t as harrowing as it can be for people of color or those who don’t speak the language. But they were poor, with a single shared trunk of belongings and beloved families left behind, and the one connection my dad thought he had for a job quickly fell through. It couldn’t have been easy.
I see my dad in the sweltering heat of August 1954, the shirt my mother ironed that morning beneath his woolen English suit now clinging to his chest, as he rides the bus up and down Woodward Avenue in Detroit searching for work. In his pocket is the letter of recommendation from his supervisor in London which, he’d been under the impression, had promised him a job here. It hadn’t. There he sits on this bus of strangers wondering how his life will unfold. But he knows how to calm himself. After all, he has survived a war; he has survived being separated from his family once already; he has survived poverty. What’s a bus ride on a sweltering day in a suit made for English summers, hopping on, hopping off, looking for a job you thought you already had compared to that?
Such pride I feel watching him. His jaw is set just so. His eyes scanning the passing streets for tool and dye companies. All emotions swallowed. They only interfere. He slips his hand inside his jacket and touches the letter even though it’s no longer of use. His heart beats too quickly and he takes a deep breath, a practice gleaned from his years of rugby, and wishes he had a glass of water. Wishes he had a job. Wishes he were rich and that life were easier. All around him, passengers chat with one another, some yell, others whisper conspiratorially; one cries. He’s not a shy man, yet remains quiet. There is a tinge of shame that he won’t let himself feel. And fear. I feel it for him. The shame of the outlier, of not being enough when you thought that you were. The fear of remaining there interminably. I feel it for him still.
Days of this. The same woolen suit. The same city heat. The same bus further along the route. His dreams gently tossed about as the bus rocks over the busted road. Even across an ocean, he is wanting to make his parents proud, make himself worthy in ways he wasn’t when he was cast aside during the war, sent to live in safety, yes, but what parents can part with their child for four years?
The fact I’m not yet born is of little importance; he can feel me. He rallies. His mouth shifts subtly upward; he slides his free hand through his oiled hair. He has a daughter to protect. Off the bus he goes. This time, good luck awaits him! The company is looking for someone with just his experience and in an instant he is gainfully employed. As he and his new boss shake hands, the comforting scent of pencil lead and metal once more in his lungs, his shoulders shift back, his stride lengthens as he makes his way to the bus stop, to once more wait. He imagines sharing the news with my mom and how delighted she’ll be; perhaps with the first paycheck she can make a roast and potatoes (he loves how she cooks them, crispy on the outside, tender in the middle) and Yorkshire pudding and they can celebrate. He begins writing the letter to his parents in his head; the careful wording of humility but also letting them know all he has overcome, how far he has already travelled. But then for the tiniest moment, his brain pauses and he is allowed greater access to his soul, his spirit, the child within, and there it is, sitting in tender splendor: the loneliness. Like a loyal dog, it has followed him from the streets of Dagenham, the docks of Southampton, the decks of the Olympia, all the way here, to his new home.
And then there is the loneliness of a childhood largely not remembered. My first memory: I’m one year and ten months. I shove a button up my nose and no matter how hard my dad tells me to blow it won’t come out again. My mom is at the hairdresser’s, so my dad and I clamber into the Mustang and head to the hospital. The lights are much brighter than in our home, a radio is playing somewhere or maybe it’s a television; people are scrambling up and down the hallways. Some are crying as my small heart pounds. My dad’s hand rests on the back of my head.
President Kennedy has been shot.
A nurse guides us into a small, overly bright room reeking of disinfectant where a doctor uses blunt-tipped scissors to release the button. Afterwards my mom is there, her mouth bright with red lipstick, her dark hair perfectly curled, elegant in a beige wool coat. She fans a lighted cigarette about as she speaks.
I should have been there, she says. I shouldn’t have left you.
She’s fine, my dad says. It was a button. The doctor removed it. She’s fine.
Nurses huddle in corners, hugging one another. Doctors stride passed, faces creased.
A button. A president murdered on an unexpectedly sunny day. Two war survivors. And me.
I’m four, maybe five, with an eye patch on, standing on the small hill, which seems tall to me then, behind Hickory Grove Elementary School. Clad in a crisply ironed dress, I’m alone. My sun-blonde hair is cropped short and choppy, almost as if I’d done it myself. We’ve recently moved from the house where I put a button up my nose to a new, bigger one in a fancier area, but my parents have kept our old pediatrician. Describing my symptoms over the phone, which include a black mass over my eye so big I cannot open it, Dr. Levy seems to think I’ll be fine. But when my fever spikes to 104 degrees, I end up at the hospital with doctors who think it’s not okay to ride things out and after reprimanding my parents, send me home with drugs and an eye patch.
From the hill I can see the back of my school and the red swinging gate that I love to play on. I feel lighter up here. Relieved of the pressure to fit in; free of the pressure to be of value. The wind blows. I hear the birds. A bee lands on my wrist. Below me my classmates play. A few of them scream with pleasure. I blink my good eye. What if I didn’t have to go back down there, I think.
Later—days, weeks, time is confusing—I’m in the kitchen, the countertop bright with sun. I am helping my mom bake. I make burnt, malformed cookies in my Easy Bake Oven that my gracious father eats when he comes home from work. But he’s not home yet, and it’s my mother holding a spatula over the mustard yellow mixing bowl and me, so small then, so vulnerable, always in dresses sent from England, listening to her explain about folding in eggs and flour and butter, things that made no sense to me then and never will, and beneath the patch, I feel my previously immoveable eyelid move. I push the patch to my forehead and ever so slightly my eye opens and light comes in and I see all that I have been missing.
My mom shrieks with delight. She hands me the batter-spackled spatula to lick in celebration. I feel her history; I feel her worry; I feel her relief that her beloved daughter will be okay. She, too, is a beloved daughter who left her mom in England to come to America, and months after arriving here, her mother died. “I killed her,” she will tell me when I’m somewhat older. “What daughter leaves her mother?” I am too young for such talk now but my small body is as absorbent as beach sand; all her sorrow, all her yearning, all her rage, all the ways my birth is meant to assuage her pain, seep into me. The sunlight, the sugary batter, my freshly opened eye, these are no match for my mother’s suffering. It is sucked deep into my flesh and then into my fragile marrow—she would be horrified to recognize this—and I am as lonely as a child at war.
During the second spring of the pandemic, as the trees leaf and the crocuses push through, Delilah, her best friend, Cookie, and I are on our morning walk. We’re returning from the cemetery as a beat-up car buzzes past. A young woman is driving; her arm rests on the open window ledge, her hair pulled loosely off her face, her skin glows; music pulses, the bass heavy and rattling, she thumps her hand in time. She smacks of freedom. I fall for her immediately; conjure the excitement and confidence of living inside her healthy body. My heart pumps harder, the arches of my feet strengthen, my bones expand with air. A confusing concoction of jealousy, anger, awe, and yearning washes over me. A long-buried part of similar strong-bodied confidence and adventure returns. And then she is gone. The street once more fills with the whoosh of cars. Cookie investigates a smell, his nose deep in the grass bordering the graveyard fence while Delilah urges us forward. My girl is always rushing toward the future, prepared, excited, determined. I long for the girl in the car with the healthy freedom to return; to return to me what I have lost. She’s my doggface208. Like Laymon, I feel with every ounce of joy in my body her acceptance of what is, I feel the freedom in her loneliness. In that fleeting moment she reminds me of everything that is gone. And the loss stings anew.
At last, the summer: hot and full of the promise of the return to normal. Though my life has lacked normal for far too long. Lying on the earth, the damp grass pleating beneath my thighs, the curve of my back, an ant crawls up my arm. Birds are singing. Such a glorious ruckus! The maples, which suck my flower beds dry, furrow deep into the earth while stretching toward the sun, oozing oxygen, sustaining us all.
When I first collapsed, it was winter. Michigan winters are brutal, withholding. Definitely not for the faint of heart or the dangerously ill. But my body knew: The earth will help me. Even on the bitterest of days, I bundled myself up, and laid on the hard ground in my back garden, still engaged enough to pray the neighbors weren’t watching. The heaviness of my limbs, the delicious pull of gravity holding me in place when it felt like little else was, nourished me. I’d learned somewhere that the human body holds all the elements on the periodic table, the same elements found in cosmic dust; I reminded myself we’re not only on the earth, we are of the earth. I am of the earth.
After, I walked in circles; a short, determined stride. I was reminded of some movie I’d seen about Vincent Van Gogh. When he’d been institutionalized in Provence, he’d circle the grounds over and again. Without probing too deeply, I wondered if I were going mad. My mother had wound up being hospitalized for postpartum depression after my birth; I’d long assumed the mark of instability had been imprinted on me. My dad, who’d moved in to care for me, encouraged me in these perambulations.
“After World War One,” he shared as he placed my daily lunch of avocado and cheese sandwich, devotedly cut into fours, and olives on the couch beside me, “the government had the returning soldiers build Nissen huts and then break them down and then build them again to help work through the stress of what they’d lived through.”
A troubled artist. Traumatized soldiers. These were my kindred spirits. These lonely souls.
But now it is summer, over a decade has passed since my dad cared for me, and the world is boisterous, alive with rumpus and glory. The ant crawls onto a rock near my head then disappears into a garden bed. The lilacs are in bloom, the air heavy with their scent. Nearby, a squirrel drinks from Delilah’s water bowl. This isn’t unusual. She shares her bowl with many animals along with the bees and some birds, although the latter two have their own bird bath.
A thrill of belonging rushes through me.
This world delights me.
I’ve worked hard to draw a vibrant, healthy garden from land that had been abused. I spent my first summer in my house digging garbage out of the earth—some so deep roots had formed over it. Now butterflies and hummingbirds and possums and frogs and so very many sparrows flock here to feed and relax.
“It’s all our land,” I admonish Delilah and Rudy when they attempt to chase them off. “We share it.”
I’ve worked hard to draw my own healthy garden from a body that has been traumatized. And to welcome all who dwell within, even the homesick parts, and not chase them off.
I sit up, dig my toes into the earth. Above me the magnificent maples, fifty or sixty feet high, sway in the breeze. It’s said the trees marry heaven and earth; small and tender beneath them I marvel at our gentle exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, each offering the other life. Soon it will be evening, and the birds will pass the music to the crickets who lull my beloveds and me to sleep.
We are all damaged in one way or another, I think, amidst the beauty. We all have the seed of loneliness planted inside us.
It was always this. Each of us made of star stuff and supernovas and the fallout of war. Each held tenderly to this planet by the benevolence of gravity. Each of the earth. Each in our darkness, softened with hope.
The sun flares red in the dimming sky, and the heat does not quiet.
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