by Michael Kimber
I'm watching Nathan For You on my laptop, which is haphazardly resting on my mattress. I can hear the fan in my computer whirring towards annihilation. I check my phone. No messages.
It's New Years. It's 9:30PM.
I have absolutely no plans.
The feelings that change you are the ones that feel like they're going to last forever. It's the difference between infatuation and love. Between sadness and depression. Between being alone and being in the full and all consuming grip of loneliness.
I'm in my underwear reaching a nuclear level of lonely.
It's the type of feeling that blocks out memory or daydreaming. It's like you've always been here. It sinks through your skin, into your bones and at first you just feel numb. Like your nervous system knows this is something you shouldn't have to feel and it shuts down. Because when you become aware of this feeling it's like your feet have been encased in concrete. And you sit there paralysed, watching Nathan For You, trying to get your attention span back from the pit of your stomach.
I should turn off my phone. That way, I won't check it. There's nothing I can do. No place to run. I just have to feel like this for a while. I imagine telling people what I did on New Years. It's strange how shame makes you feel like the most important person in the world. Like everyone cares what you're doing.
I once saw a homeless man getting a hug. I don't know how it happened. I don't think they knew each other. But he was asking people for change and somehow he got a hug. I remember looking at his face and being lost in his reaction. It was as if he was seeing the sun for the first time in years. And I was astounded at how important it is to take that brave and awkward step towards connection.
I have gone weeks without being touched. I can't imagine what it feels like to go for years. This New Years was a reminder of what loneliness is really like. I don't really need to describe this feeling for you. I know you've felt it. I live in Toronto. There's five million people and it's incredibly easy to lose touch with all of them. Everyone is busy. As an adult you have work, a love life, exercise, and family to take your attention. It's easier to read advertisements in subway stops rather than muster the irrational courage it takes to meet a stranger's gaze. It's unspoken that it's rude to start a conversation. As an adult you see your friends less and less. Your social circle shrinks. It happens to everyone.
It's a cliché to mention that we say more words through our screens than we do in person. Or to say that our eyes do most of the heavy lifting in our personal interactions. We connect through pictures without touch, smell, taste or sound. You get it. It's so boring that we don't like to see our lives honestly depicted in media. And the older you get, the harder it is to be brave.
What happened next?
I got a text message.
Relief floods by body.
It's from my childhood best friend, Dave Plowman.
He says that he's taking it easy with his girlfriend Lauren but they would love for me to join them. I turn off my computer. I get on pants and my shoes.
I'm on the subway. Meeting stranger's eyes. Finally able to breathe again. In fact, I'm breathing a little quickly. Like I know I've just escaped from something deadly that I can still feel in my body.
I'm surrounded by drunk people. Some of them are wearing adorably psychotic festive hats. Some are willing to make eye contact with me. I beam at them. I got out.
I don't think Dave will ever fully realize how important that text message was. I guess people rarely talk about how much friendship means. Dave and I have been there for each other throughout the years - when it was four in the morning and it was goddamn necessary to pick up. We've been there through funerals, divorces, breakups. I stayed at his house the first night I moved to Toronto. I stayed at his place after my apartment building burned down. Some things break. Our friendship won't.
I go to his house. I have a drink and his pug George crawls into my lap. I feel alive again.
What's the point of all this?
A web series called Just Cuddle.
It's about people who are lonely and somehow manage the bravery it takes to reach out to make a connection. Our story is about a professional cuddler. Each episode is a short film focusing on a different client. It will be unlike any web series you've ever seen.
Our trailer is going to go live April 5th. We want you to share it. The first episode is going to be released April 18th. We want you to come along for the journey.
We're also going to do something a little different. You're going to get to know the people who made this series. We're going to share our stories of loneliness and connection. We're going to ask you to share your stories. We're going to build a community. Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/justcuddleseries
Hopefully we'll cuddle.