If I hurried through my after-class shower, left my hair wet, threw my uniform back on, and raced down four flights of stairs two at a time and out to the back porch I could reach the pay phones before anyone else. Five minutes’ slower and there would be at least five people waiting for both phones and even if they adhered to the ‘no more than ten minute call’ rule I’d be almost an hour waiting to call home.
The high temperature in southwest Oklahoma that particular November was 15-degrees Fahrenheit. Then the wind comes sweeping off the plains and sucks the breath out of your chest, freezes your wet hair, and turns your booted feet into blocks of ice. This phone calls costs.
There is nothing familiar or reassuring in a hundred-year-old stone cavalry building filled with people you don’t know assigned to the Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Loneliness is expected and often overwhelming, particularly at first, when it’s hard to make friends.
Sometimes just hearing the voice of someone you love, who lives outside your current circumstances is the breath of life. It gives you something to hold on to while you walk through your current misery because there’s hope of something better at the end of it.
Later in life we may be just as lonely but there may be no one to call. We do well to be kind to others. The loneliness might be making them crazy.
Tom Waits gets loneliness with his song “Shiver Me Timbers”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_F0DIJyHRs.