It was quite an experience driving home today from Philadelphia by myself. The car is usually so full of noise on that trip — the sounds of iPad games, of videos, of music through the stereo speakers, and of off-and-on conversation — that I can’t hear myself think while I drive, but this time was different. Yes, there was still the noise of the stereo (this time the football game on a spotty station), and occasionally the sound of my own singing to the music in my head, but no conversation, which made all the difference.
Time dragged on, even though I made the journey in record time, so I had to entertain myself with pictures in my head, and by imagining the lives of the people I passed, and of the people who passed me on the road. I even imagined picking up a hitchhiker and the stories we would have told each other in that scenario. I realized that people just weren’t meant to be alone, that in the grand scheme of things, that’s why we’re social creatures, to avoid that feeling of being alone that can suffocate and make us hallucinate. It’s sad but true.
It got me to thinking about how many people do go through their lives alone, for whom a trip of that length by themselves would have been normal, even natural, and of all the things they would be missing out on by doing that all the time by themselves. Of course if they had never known the noise of community, I guess it wouldn’t be so bad. If we don’t know what we’re missing, how can we possibly miss it? And yet I guess it’s possible, if we see enough the way it’s supposed to be, or how the “other half” lives. We could pine for those things we wish we had.
When I pulled back into our driveway after the trip I let out a pent-up sigh of relief, because no matter how loud and crazy my family can be, they’re my family, and I feel a comfort being ensconced in their noise. I grabbed them and held them close as they chattered away, and I couldn’t help but smile. Of course, though, after a few days of this noise I’ll be ready to pull my hair out, but for now it sounds like angels’ voices.