The Cognitive Backyard

The Fear of Loneliness

I am not afraid of loneliness, I am not afraid of the unknown, I am afraid of what I know

Over the past two and a half years, I have become insomniac. I can barely sleep. I have always been a nocturnal. I have spent almost my entire adult life being a night’s person and sleeping very late in the night. But I could still sleep. However, these past couple of years have seen me become sleepless. I can only sleep when my body is exhausted of staying restless, when my mind is unable to think or resist.

I have spent countless nights awake because of my love for books. A good novel used to be enough to help me sustain sleepless nights. Then I gradually cultivated a madness for writing, and watching movies. I have found and watched every single epic movie I could get my hands on from every era since the talkies started coming out. My personal collection of DVDs is massive, and I am not a very rich person. Some nights it were just movies that used to keep me up, and some nights it was just a good idea I wanted to scribble. But since her battle with death began, I just couldn’t sleep any more.

Meanwhile, at work, a colleague resigned and I was given an additional responsibility to look after his assignments. Naeem, who used to be his assistant, was given under my charge. Interestingly, Naeem and I appeared for our respective jobs’ interview with our current employer at the same day, and joined the organisation on the same day as well. However, despite his professional competence and impeccable knowledge about his line of work, I never liked him. He was very loud, and very talkative. I might be loud too, but  I am not very talkative, and I don’t certainly indulge in gossiping – something he really loves. So much that sometimes I doubted he has the soul of a woman.

But when he started assisting me, I gradually realised that behind his very talkative and loud mouth is a very emphatic and kind person. Soon, I found myself indulging in his mental gibberish about a wild assortment of issues related to work, family, women, politics and religion. On the other hand, he quietly saw me struggling in my private life. He would often empathise with my situation, and offer suggestions and counsel. He also used to take care of most of the work burden not just because I was novice to his line of work but also because he understood that I was facing serious problems unlike what others thought at work. This mutual exchange of different kinds of support brought us closer on a personal level.

He started visiting me at home, and at the hospital where she was admitted. He was among the two persons to arrive first as soon as I broke the news of her death to my friends and family. He still visits me at least once a week and would spend a nocturnal night with me talking about all sorts of issues he has faced in life or he has seen me struggle with. Today, he is more like a personal friend to me than just a colleague or assistant.

Earlier this week, as we were returning from another colleague’s wedding he decided to stay over at my place. He knew I didn’t sleep the night earlier, and he saw me sleepless that night again. We spent that entire night sitting here in my study talking about life, existence, and morality.

The next day, he said to me as he was dozing off at work, “I think you have developed a fear of loneliness”. I didn’t know what to say to him in response. We were sitting in the smoking zone of our office, and I just sat puffing quietly.

What Naeem doesn’t know is that I have always suffered a certain measure of loneliness, as Raj Kapoor would melodiously sing:

Dhakay Pe Dhaka, Relay Pe Rela…
Hai Bheer Inti, Par Dil Akela…”

What he doesn’t realise is the fact that if I was scared of being lonely, I wouldn’t have spent night after night sitting alone in my study. I am not scared of being lonely. No fear of ghosts bother me when I close my eyes. No desire for company make me yearn.

I am scared of people. I don’t trust them. I doubt myself when I see in the mirror. I doubt God. I hear them all laughing behind my back.

I fear the mischief of my own shadow. I am afraid of my destiny. I fear my curse. I am afraid of the darkness that possesses my soul.

I am not afraid of the unknown. I am afraid of what I know. I am scared of what I have experienced to be true. I am not afraid of walking down the lonely road of mortality. Every night, every moment of these nights, the same existential questions, the same chaos bothers my mind. Every night my mind is agitated.

Every night, I wish vampires really existed for I lack the courage of my conviction. I am afraid of doing it myself. I wish I was Louis de Pointe du Lac, and there was a Lestat somewhere waiting for my invitation to release me of my pain of living.

Author

Bilal Khan

I am a Lahore, Pakistan, based researcher in the fields of Political Science, Public Policy, and Public Administration.
%d bloggers like this: