February 16, 2024

I was sweating a fair bit. Through the window, I could see naked men walking through the hallway from the change rooms to the showers, and then back again. Staring at the grain of the wood lining the walls, I was convinced it was cedar. I was sitting on the top-level bench in the sauna at the YMCA when I started hearing the Village People singing in my head.

I only know one of their songs: Y.M.C.A. “Young man,” they kept saying. “Don’t you let yourself down.” “Young man, pick yourself off the ground.” Those were all of the lyrics I could remember. I was searching for lyrics that referenced a sense of belonging. I found none in my memory.

When alone in a hot room, clothed only in a short towel, 15 minutes can feel like a long time. After about two, maybe three, my mind starts to wander. Occasionally, my thoughts are interrupted by the feeling of a bead of sweat running down my skin, usually on my back or chest. Today, I got to thinking about belonging.

Looking back, the places I have most comfortable have been the places in which I’ve been alone. I really enjoyed living alone. I love going to the workshop, where I keep the door mostly shut. I don’t turn on the lights of the library until the first bell rings in the morning. I take my headphones with me whenever I leave the house, blocking out the world around me as I walk through it. Where I’ve felt the greatest sense of belonging has been in places and situations I was in alone.

Living with Hannah has been different. I don’t feel stifled or uncomfortable. She’s never in my way or my space. I don’t feel displaced in any way. Outside of the apartment, things are different.

I was thinking back to my days in Calgary, when I couldn’t stay still. If I was at home it was because I was sleeping. I had a constant urge to leave, to go anywhere, to just not be where I was for very long. I always felt out of place, except for when I’d go drinking.

While I don’t feel like I belong anywhere where other people are, except for in the apartment with Hannah, these days, I don’t have that same compulsion to just go anywhere else. I have pockets to go to when I want to be alone, and in those small spaces I find a sense of belonging. I’m not as comfortable at the Y as are the naked men who drink tea and watch TV while sitting on a leather chair. That must be a real sense of belonging.


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