Longing for Belonging
She sat there. In the back of the bustling coffee shop. At a small table. Hunched over her computer. Her brow was furrowed with concentration and longing. There were no smiles. She sipped her coffee and checked her watch. She crossed and uncrossed her legs. She looked up from time to time, squinting, studying the world around her. A world blurry and benign. She watched the bundled strangers who waited for lattes and muffins and happiness. She noticed the black. The black coats and hats and gloves. The black boots scuffed from so much walking. The black coffee. Pure and strong before the milk.
She stared at that screen, that familiar and fabled screen. That took her away from the world and took her to the world. She fumbled with those buttons, those black buttons blanketed in letters and numbers and symbols. Those buttons that helped her and hurt her. Those buttons that had become part of her. She huddled there, alone, all alone, and yet surrounded. Surrounded by people she could see, but didn't know. And by people she couldn't see, but had grown to know and love and need. She sat there, in a different world. But still real. In moments of pause, she wondered if she belonged in that world. Or in any.
She wondered what it meant to belong. She wondered whether belonging was fact or fiction. Whether it was something she needed and longed for, but could never have. Like peace. And order. And time. All alone and surrounded, she wondered about these big things, these vast and indulgent things that crept into her mind on a fungible Friday afternoon, amid the midtown holiday bustle. And when these thoughts got to be too much and too loud, she shut down. She stood up. She put on her smile and her coat. Her black coat. She caught the eyes of strangers who knew. Who fidgeted with gadgets and checked watches. Who waited patiently for fancy coffees and answers they'd never have.
And then she walked out. Into the air. Into the cold. Into the world she loved desperately and humbly, but would never begin to understand. She walked toward a far more frivolous world. Awash in a sea of grays, she suddenly needed black and white. She longed to float among fine things and fine women. To finger raw silks and bold sequins. To find a dress. The perfect dress. To fit. Once there, in that winsome world, once hers, she was overwhelmed by the odor, the otherness. In this world, this glittering and glamorous world, she felt she no longer fit. And so she left. Again. Walking away. Chilled by icy awareness. Auspiciously alone. In a fit of nutritious abstraction. Toward home.
Do you think the longing for belonging is part of what it means to be human? Why do New Yorkers wear so much black?