“You don’t have anything on your walls.” During the photo shoot, the Brazilian woman with curly hair waves an index around 450 square feet of my Manhattan apartment’s sterile partitions. A photographer, her job is to scrutinize images — or the lack thereof. “Is that on purpose?”

She’s the first visitor I’ve hosted in nearly a month. Before moving to New York, I threw flamboyant dinner parties: slamming bottomless pitchers of homemade sangria on the kitchen table, pulling warm meals from the oven and scattering vases with fresh-cut tulips and gigantic potted plants named Rosie and Bubba throughout the house. Friends came over and we enjoyed long conversations dotted with laughter — usually sharing stories about sex, life and love. I miss the warmth, connection and gezelligheid of breaking bread in my home while surrounded by close friends.

In Manhattan, I eat restaurant food with an unknown list of ingredients prepared by cooks whose hands I never see.

Empty: Pavement View, Times Square

“My friends and I always go out for brunches and dinners,” I tell the photographer. “I’m never home. Honestly, my apartment has kind of turned in to a hotel room. I sleep here and that’s pretty much it.” Is the Brazilian’s silence is because she’s without words, or does she feel uncomfortable speaking her response? I want to tell her: My life isn’t as lonely as my apartment makes it appear. Cracking a joke, I point to framed photographs leaning against the baseboard with a thin layer of two-month-old dust. “I still haven’t decided where to hang these yet. I guess I’m really a commitmentphobe.” Her laughter puts me more at ease.

Three days earlier, on invitation from Indieflix, I attended singles event Love In Times Square. The jumbotron illuminated our faces as my date — Billy, a friend visiting from Los Angeles — and I stood with mouths slightly open, tilting our heads up toward the screen. Romantic comedies, the theme was singletons finding love in unexpected places. Beaches. Laundromats. Office spaces. After watching four short films, Billy and I went to the W for Indieflix’s private afterparty where we ran into the cutest couple. Sipping a pear martini, I asked the pair how they met. “BYU,” said the Stu Holden lookalike. I wondered out loud, “Wow! So, are you guys Mormon? Rumspringa and everything?” They laughed and explained — while, yes, they were Mormon — it was Amish adolescents who do the whole “run around” thing to find themselves. Symbolically replacing the foot in my mouth with a martini glass, I took another sip and changed the subject.

“When you met, who picked up who? How did you connect?”

They said they were married, and I noticed both their smiles and tinted blond hair matched. As they jokingly sparred about who hit on who first, they stood in close proximity flashing knowing glances at each other. They looked happy. After the event, singletons Billy and I grabbed dinner at a restaurant. Then, we retired to our respective hotels. He crashed at a different friend’s place, and I went to my apartment.

Loneliness isn’t that act of living by oneself, it’s what happens when you feel like your needs aren’t being met. Afterall, in the past, I felt most alone and abandoned when I dated a guy who was incapable of meeting my needs. So, the trick seems to be: Figure out what makes you feel lonely and do something about it. Me? I’m satisfied with my life and it’s very full, but being in my apartment sometimes feels lonely. I should throw dinner parties there more often. I love hanging out with my friends in public spaces, but I really miss sharing intimate moments with them in my home.

Below is Australian director Patrick Hughes‘ short film SIGNS. Screened at Love In Times Square, it’s the story of an Aussie guy living the single life in London. Opening scene? His sterile apartment. It’s easy to forget I’m not the only person who feels lonely at times.

NOTE: YOU HAVE TO WATCH THE WHOLE FILM. It’s only depressing in the beginning.

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Times Square image credit: Mo Riza