Depression and Loneliness track me down after about ten days in Italy. I am walking through the Villa Borghese one evening after a happy day spent in school, and the sun is setting gold over St Peter’s Basilica. I am feeling contented in this romantic scene, even if I am all by myself, while everyone else in the park is either fondling a lover of playing with a laughing child. But I stop to lean against a balustrade and watch the sunsent, and I get to thinking a little too much, and then my thinking turns to brooding, and that’s when they catch up with me.
They come upon me all silent and menacing like Pinkerton Detectives, and they flank me- Depression on my left, Loneliness on my right. They don’t need to show me their badges. I know these guys very well. We’ve been playing a cat-and-mouse game for years now. Though I admit that I am surprised to meet them in this elegant Italian garden at dusk. This is no place they belong.
I say to them, “How did you find me here? Who told you I had come to Rome?”
Depression, always the wise guy, says, “What- you’re not happy to see us?”
“Go away,” I tell him.
Loneliness, the more sensitve cop, says “I’m sorry ma’am. But I might have to tail you the whole time you’re travelling. It’s my assignment.”
“I’d really rather you didn’t,” I tell him, and he shrugs almost apologetically, but only moves closer.
Then they frisk me. They empty my pockets of any joy I had been carrying there. Depression even confiscates my identity; but he always does that. Then Loneliness starts interrogating me, which I dread because it always goes on for hours. He’s polite but relentless, and he always trips me up eventually. He asks if I have any reason to be happy that I know of. He asks why I am all by myself tonight, yet again. He asks (though we’ve been through this line of questioning hundreds of times already) why I can’t keep a relationship going, why I ruined my marriage, why I messed things up with David, why I messed things up with every man I’ve ever been with. He asks me where I was the night I turned thirty, and why things have gone so sour since then. He asks why I can’t get my act together, and why I’m not at home living in a nice house and raising nice children like any respectable woman my age should be. He asks why, exactly, I think I deserve a vacation in Rome when I’ve made such a rubble of my life. He asks me why I think that running away to Italy lika college kid will make me happy. He asks where I think I’ll end up on my old age, if I keep living this way.
I walk back home, hoping to shake them, but they keep following me, these two goons. Depression has a firm hand on my shoulder and Loneliness harangues me with his interrogation. I don’t even bother eating dinner; I don’t want them watching me. I don’t want to let them up the stairs to my apartment, either, but I know Depression, and he’s got a billy club, so there’s no stopping him from coming in if he decides that he wants to.
It’s not fair for you come come here,” I tell Depression. “I paid you off already. I served my time back in New York.”
But he just gives me that dark smile, settles into my favourite chair, puts his feet on my table and lights a cigar, filling the place with his awful smoke. Loneliness watches and sighs, then climbs into my bed and pulls the covers over himself, fully dressed, shoes and all. He’s going to make me sleep with him again tonight, I just know it.
I did not feel lonely in Rome, but sometimes feel so in my home country. A lingering feeling that suddenly sweeps upon oneself in the middle of a walk, in the shadows of the night, in the middle of a cup of tea. Some loneliness is comforting, too much and the silence can be overwhelming.