Solitude loves company

When Alene moved to Seattle, she did bring a TV. As I mentioned in the beginning, she was a bit of TV junkie when I first knew her. At her first apartment, she could pick up around a dozen stations over the airwaves with the rabbit ears — so she decided to forgo the expense of cable service and just make do with broadcast channels. One of the PBS channels was showing Red Dwarf — something neither one of us had seen for many years — and I seem to remember it being every weeknight around 10pm, or something like that.

Something that always struck Alene as weird was Lister and Rimmer sharing a cabin — despite living aboard an abandoned spaceship that had been built to house hundreds of people!! Considering the difficulty with which the pair got along, you’d think they would have sought separate quarters from the very beginning. Of course, that would have required another set and would have presented an additional challenge for the writers — but it’s still something that begs the question.

Anyway, the truth is that isolation has a way of making bunkmates of even the most solitary types. I am a habitual loner and have been happy to spend weeks at a time completely alone at my house in France. Allen also enjoys his own company with ease.

Down here, however, we are sharing a cabin, even though there are six others in the compound. The idea was mainly to conserve fuel by heating one cabin instead of two. But the truth is, we actually do need each other’s company right now. Alone at my house in France, I was always safe in the knowledge that there were around a half dozen farms less than a mile away — and that Paris was just over an hour away by car.

The thought of how few humans there are between us and the South Pole is a very lonely one indeed. And we have yet to see an airplane pass over, although admittedly it’s frequently cloudy. There must be some commercial air routes over the pole from South American to Australia — but we haven’t noticed any air traffic. To the north and west is the continent of South America — but there are no people immediately accessible.

We only take short walks alone and always inform the other of the planned route as a precaution. In fact, we check in with each other before doing anything that will take us out of sight of the cabin. We each have established our personal schedules for the day with a division of labor we agreed on once we got settled. Allen takes care of garbage and general maintenance while I attend to cooking and laundry. And I spend much of the day watching Alene, especially when she’s in need of company. We keep ourselves pretty busy, one way or another.

But it’s always comforting to withdraw to the shared cabin as night falls, which is now happening at around 2pm Seattle time. While I make dinner, Allen lies down on his bunk and I tell him what I’ve seen as Alene has gone through her day. Or he reads something to me that he thinks will be of interest. I couldn’t imagine being alone in here at night — looking out at the light from another cabin.

It would seem to make no sense at all.


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