I was in Seattle a few weeks ago, where I met up with a friend from the university. He picked me up from my downtown hotel and we drove to Beth’s Cafe, a breakfast restaurant known for its 12-egg omelets and the crayon drawings that line its walls. The drawings showcase a range of artistic styles, from remarkable reproductions of Elsa (of Frozen fame) to Dalí-esque surrealisms. My favorite drawing was of two stick bugs, wading through a puddle of rainwater that had accumulated in a crack in the sidewalk. The bugs were indistinct brown sticks, each with six legs. The drawing struck me because it appeared to be the work of six year old who used too much purple crayon. Yet it evoked solitude with an intensity unmatched by any other drawing that I saw. It may have been the color, or a combination of color and visual understatement, but the figures of the two stick bugs seemed to represent a shared lonesomeness.
We finished our meals and drove to nearby Green Lake. There was a boat rental hut, where we rented a blue two-person pedal-boat. We hopped into the water and got into the boat that was waiting for us. I tightened my life-vest, and we began to pedal. There was more resistance than I expected, and I felt my thighs tighten as we pedaled out onto the water, leaving a V-shaped trail of ripples behind us. We talked about our summers. I spent a lot of my summer alone in a library. It’s not a bad thing. Alone, but not lonely. I realized that college, for all the social attention, often is a solitary activity. I study with friends less often than I did in high school. I eat lunch, and sometimes dinner, alone, which, I should stress, is not a bad thing. I think college calls for a healthy amount of solitude. Of course, it also calls for interaction, but I think that solitude is underrated.
In the middle of Green Lake, my friend and I drifted, our feet drying upon the pedals of our $18/hour rented pedal-boat. We weren’t especially thin, having eaten more than our fair share of eggs, hash browns, and bacon, but in every other way we were like the purple stick bugs of a six year old, alone on a boat in the middle of a lake. I could have sighed and my breath would have vibrated the water.