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Sylvia Plath : Loneliness of the Soul

Extracts from :

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

"- Now I know what loneliness is, I think. Momentary loneliness, anyway. It comes from a vague core of the self -- like a disease of the blood, dispersed throughout the body so that one cannot locate the matrix, the spot of contagion. I am back in my room at Haven House after the Thanksgiving Holidays. Homesick is the name they give to that sick feeling which dominates me now. I am alone in my room, between two worlds. Downstairs are the few girls who have come in - no freshman, no one I really know. I could go down with letter paper as an excuse for my presence, but I won't yet -- not yet. No, I won't try to escape myself by losing myself in artificial chatter "Did you have a nice vacation?" "Oh, yes, and you ?" I'll stay here and try to pin that loneliness down.

I hardly can remember those four days of Thanksgiving - a blur of home, smaller than when I left, with the spots on the darkened yellow wallpaper more visible; my old room, now no longer really mine, with all my things gone; Mother, Grammy," Clem" and Warren and Bob; my walk with the boys before the family reunion and dinner; my talk with Bob after we saw "The Red Shoes"; my date at the party Saturday, tall, blonde, and horribly popular, and then Sunday - numb, gray, and just as I had begun to accustom myself to familiar faces, the ride back. Oh yes, the ride back. When "Hump""got in back beside me, Tooky" next to me, told him to get in front because his legs were too long. So my one clutch on the situation was gone. All the other three boys were short. Tooky could talk gaily to all about times they had in common. Oh, she had the situation well in hand, and I was jealous of her superior reserve of tactics - in other words, I grudgingly admired her. So there it was, two hours of driving through the dark, the warmth of the people on either side of me - animal warmth penetrates regardless of sensibilities and arbitrary mental barricades. I was there, yet not there. Part was back home, with love and security, and part was at Smith, the present necessity and hope.

So here I am, in my room. I can't surround myself with friends and chatter and oblivion because my few comrades are not yet here. I can't deceive myself out of the bare stark realization that no matter how enthusiastic you are, no matter how sure that character is fate, nothing is real, past or future, when you are alone in your room with the clock ticking loudly into the false cheerful brilliance of the electric light. And if you have no past or future which, after all, is all that the present is made of, why then you may as well dispose of the empty shell of present and commit suicide. But the cold reasoning mass of gray entrail in my cranium which parrots "I think, therefore I am", whispers that there is always the turning, the upgrade, the new slant. And so I wait. What avail are good looks ? To grab temporary security ? What avail are brains ? Merely to say "I have seen ; I have comprehended ?" Ah yes, I hate myself for not being able to go downstairs naturally and seek comfort in numbers. I hate myself for having to sit here and be torn between I know not what within me.

Here I am, a bundle of past recollections and future dreams, knotted up in a reasonably attractive bundle of flesh. I remember what this flesh has gone through; I dream of what it may go through. I record here the actions of optical nerves, of taste buds, of sensory perception. And, I think: I am but one more drop in the great sea of matter, defined, with the ability to realize my existence. Of the millions, I, too, was potentially everything at birth. I, too, was stunted, narrowed, warped, by my environment, my outcroppings of heredity. I, too, will find a set of beliefs, of standards to live by, yet the very satisfaction of finding them will be marred by the fact that I have reached the ultimate in shallow, two-dimensional living - a set of values.

This loneliness will blur and diminish, no doubt, when tomorrow I plunge again into classes, into the necessity of studying for exams. But now, that false purpose is lifted and I am spinning in a temporary vacuum. At home I rested and played, here, where I work, the routine is momentarily suspended and I am lost. There is no living being on earth at this moment except myself. I could walk down the halls, and empty rooms would yawn mockingly at me from every side. God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of "parties" with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter - they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship - but the loneliness of the soul in it's appalling self-consciousness, is horrible and overpowering."


Click-click: tick-tick

Clock snips time in two

Lap of rain

In the drain pipe

Two o'clock

And never you.

Never you, down the evening,

I cannot

Cry, or even smile

Acidly or bitter-sweetly

For never you and incompletely.

Things surround me;

I could touch

Soap or toothbrush

Desk or chair.

Never mind the three dimensions

All is flat, and you not there.

Letters, paper, stamps

And white. And black.

typewritten-you, and there

It is.

The trickle, liquid trickle

Of rain in drain-pipe

Is voice enough

For me tonight.

And the click-click

Hard quick click-click

Of the clock

Is pain enough,

enough heart-beat n

For me tonight.

The narrow cot,

The iron bed

Is space enough

And warmth enough...

Enough, enough.

To bed and sleep

And tearless creep

The formless seconds

Minutes hours

And never you

The raindrops weep

And never you

And tick-tick,


pass the hours.

* * *


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