The green sticker on the back of the toilet door asks me if I’m depressed, lonely or suicidal. Since I’m in no great hurry I give the question some consideration and conclude that no, I am none of the above.
With the Samaritans’ question successfully settled I pose one of my own: “If I’m not depressed, lonely or suicidal, why am I sitting in a public toilet waiting for time to pass?”
But the day is cold and the morning is wet. I have nowhere to go, nothing to do and definitely no-one to see. The hostel where I sleep closes after breakfast and only opens when darkness closes everything else down. I have already spent two hours reading the papers in the library; homeless, shiftless, inept people are more well-read than people generally give us credit for. I have browsed the bookstore for as long as decency permits, but if I was a woman I would go into every clothes shop in town and try on lots of clothes then lots of shoes then lots more just to get out of the rain and chat about nothing much to shop girls and maybe even fool myself into thinking all is well.
But I’m not a woman and I’m not lonely without friends though I don’t mind a bit of human interaction from time to time which is why I sometimes stop people in the street to ask them the time or to ask for directions to some out-of-the-way place I’ll never go to, but I’m not lonely.
So I don’t need friends because I’m not lonely, but I do remember some occasions when I thought I was lonely and tried to cross the border into that foreign territory called friendship. A long, high barbed-wire fence marks that odd Utopia off from outsiders with only a few well-guarded crossing points from over here to over there, but I didn’t know the password so the guards wouldn’t let me in.
I’ve made my peace with all that; I’m content to stay safely on this side of the border where I belong, though from time to time I will admit that I walk up to the fence and look through the wire and try to figure out that strange custom those happy natives have that they call friendship.