Copyright 2018

Lonely as a Stagnant Cloud

Heather Frankland

Loneliness is like a lover that I have a secret affair going on with; he comes back from time to time, and he is so familiar—but my friends have little idea.

The feeling that he gives is not butterflies, but this deep gut punch; you can feel him exploring the weaknesses in your bones, testing their cracks and twists, the breaks that were badly healed and could be broken again with the right pressure. You want to call it beautiful. You want to call the constant feeling of being an outsider beautiful. You say that it makes you deeper, that it makes you more of a poet. Emotions are supposed to roll over you like weather, for each time a
season, but Loneliness is a feeling that has overstayed his welcome; he eats all of your food, uses up all the hot water, and still you don’t complain because at least you have a guest in your house, a lover in your bed.

When I used to feel overwhelmed with my life or uncertain or when the sharp edges of Loneliness started to press onto me, I would go and seek a moment of reprieve in nature. In Southern New Mexico, I would drive out to the Pecan Orchards, to that little shop that sold the pecan mixes that I bought for my family for Christmas (the Southwestern gifts seemingly prized in the Midwest). I would pull my little car into the tiny parking lot. It was dark outside; the store had been closed for hours. I would lay on the hood of my car, sometimes leaving the car radio on, and while my car barely hummed with life, the hood as warm as a person’s chest, I would stare at the small pecan tree branches stretching into the night sky. The stars were plentiful, like I could scoop my hands into the sky and hold them. At first, I was Lonely, and my brain would be muttering—going on overdrive, trying to figure out my life and why my life and desires felt so stalled—my passion a dried bud in the middle of a heavy book for remembering—still holding the same color and shape, but not the fragrance and touch, and then, I wouldn’t be thinking. Loneliness would be quiet. I could smell the air, hear the wind, and the stars convinced me that I was probably one of many, of layers of many people now and in the past who needed to be
convinced they were small, that they were connected to something mysterious and deep, and that they weren’t really important—that the decisions they made had little lingering effects, were as quick as a Midwestern rainstorm that would seem heavy, but would pass and then reveal sunshine.

Here in the Northwest, the rain doesn’t pass. It lingers. Surrounded by awe-inspiring nature, I feel like I need to pass a test to be able to enjoy it. I need the right gear, to know the right trails, and to be careful about walking or going anywhere alone. Here, my Loneliness, curls in bed with me; he watches me while I sleep, waits for me to wake so that he can be the first thing I see in the morning; he tells me he loves me, that he is loyal, that he alone knows me, and will never leave me. He convinces me that I am this lonely creature, for whom, joy has always been absent. But I have started to do my research, track my old journals, talk to my old friends, and I can see there were quick sketches of joy in edges of my experiences. I want to grant her a bigger part, give her the dancing shoes, but Loneliness stalks me.

I am surprised others don’t see how he stalks me.

In the bathroom, he follows me. To my office, he follows me. When I walk by coworkers and say hello, he follows me. He holds open the doors for me, shuts them, and then runs to join me because he knows that I would leave him if I could. I would sneak out at night when he is asleep, find those stars I love so much, and feel Joy—as shy as a stray kitten that gets close to you—slowly at first, hiding in the corners of the barn, and then suddenly she is there.

Heather Frankland's poetry and prose have appeared in Claudius Speaks, the Sin Fronteras Journal, Ice Cube Press, ROAR, damselfly press, Lingerpost, the New Purlieu Review, among others. She attended NMSU for her two degrees: MFA and MPH. She recently returned to New Mexico after living in Washington State. She is originally from Indiana.