Fred never had many visitors; most of his life, in fact, was alone. Not that he was a hermit. He was hardly positioned by choice far from settlement or human habitation. He lived in a city.
Not a crowded urban stain, mind you, but a beautiful city. Idyllically proportioned sidewalks and streets. Buildings laid out thoughtfully with trees for shade and fine architecture. Perfectly flat on regular terrain as only a city of the plains could be. Four stories seemed absurdly tall, there. Why go up, when it was just as easy to go out? There was decency, and certain understood presence to being there. No man was greater than another. Nothing as officious or macho as respect ran the place, but rather a subdued, familiar love. It was truly a city of conscience.
Pity how empty it was.
Not ever a fallen branch or trashcan out of place, (this was no ghost town or relic) just no one was there. Well, that is a lie. Very FEW people anyways.
Fred saw most of them. Being one of few people in town he was a sort of living event. Soft spoken and genial, he’d receive them in his oddly linear house. A few minutes of pleasant, prosaic conversation and they would move on. His most frequent visitor was his friend the speedy delivery man. Not that they ever stopped to talk over lunch more than once or twice. Not that they ever spent an evening talking over beers like most small city buddies, or over wine like two small-town intelligencia. Much as the delivery man was compelled by his work to move on, Fred was compelled to stay. His was to dwell, to occupy, to be neighborly, but brief.
Most of the time he was alone in his house. Well, we’ve already said that, of course. We’ve told you why he was alone too, but we haven’t told you how.
Not much mystery to being alone, you say? Every act has its art, its refinements, and those bent towards its artful enactment. No matter how miniscule or obscure.
Fred was a master of being alone.
He employed the same rhythm. Routines and cycles like verses in a song, or stations of the cross. Wavelengths and patterns that might take a day, a week, a year each to complete. Each with mindfulness and care. There was no deviation over time to his rhythm, every exploration and change was balanced piously with a repetition of the base pattern, the first verse. A drum circle jamming back to the beat it began on. A tea ceremony carried out mostly for one.
He entered his house every morning. (But where DID he sleep?)
He meditated on his place in the dwelling. How he held himself in his householding.
He changed from street shoes into indoors shoes. How his perambulation put him in mind of his keeping house.
He donned his sweater. Cassock and stole for his vigil, a warm garment to warmly greet those who may come.
A good deal of time he spent on a long running thought experiment. A make believe land of characters, each cautiously endowed with a virtue and a flaw. No villains, no evil, just an aspect of humanity carefully excised and given an embodiment. Characters matched and tested against circumstance and against themselves. A man of conscience, Fred did this not to hate them, or discover how to deal with them. He did this to lay bare the things he hated in humanity and role them out until he could accept them, until he could love them.