In spite of having walked back to his house so many times after midnight he was always a bit shaky when he did. The cold would bite into his flesh through his heavy jacket and he would think of the comforting warmth that his home country offered -- to both her own and others -- in the form of a tea shop at every street corner. The chill back home was bearable -- winters were a time when women would gracefully drape their pashmina shawls around them and schoolkids wore monkey caps and looked just as silly as he once had. Here, shadows of large, tall buildings fell in dark alien shapes and sizes -- he nervously tried to look up, down and all around at the same time. A group of drunk students stood in a circle of loud laughter and threw a racist comment or two his way. A familiar fear gripped him tightly and he quickened his pace.
Strangely, he did not miss home much but the comfort of home. Life was hard here. He knew that he was a seeker. But he wasn't sure what he was seeking. He knew that there was meaning in his study and his work, that there was a purpose to his coming to this place. Yet an emptiness burned within him and alcohol neither fueled it nor suppressed it. In any case, it was too expensive. He was used to drinking bad quality roadside liquor -- the kind that transports you quickly and easily. It had been his constant companion throughout college, along with his usual pack of gold flake, but now he had not place for either. He remembered how she had hated the smell of gold flake in particular; the way she'd frown and reproachfully tell him to smoke another brand. He smiled at the recollection.
Family, friends and lovers -- all seemed to belong to a surreal world from which he seemed to be missing. They seemed to belong to the external now, not to the within. Sometimes he didn't take calls for days; some days he hated facebook with an intensity that surprised him; he stopped using skype. He didn't feel any better after the long distance mechanical communication -- if anything, it made him feel more detached. Questions of meaning and meaninglessness bothered him when he was not working in the lab or playing music. Which was most of the time, because he was the kind whose thought processes worked on different dimensions that were mutually exclusive and always multitasking. On some days he felt sick, as sick as the steel grey surroundings, and he'd throw up the little dinner that he'd had.
He had called her once, and she hadn't taken the call. By the time she'd called back he'd lost the mood.
He got home, relieved, and realised that he'd forgotten dinner. He could hear the couple in the next room clearly so he pulled on a pair of headphones and shut his door. He absorbed himself in studying the chords that he'd been trying to pick up for so long. Sometimes he spoke to his guitar; sometimes he heard it speak back to him.
Slowly he realised that he'd been alone for so long that he quite liked it.