There's a distinct sort of melancholy that comes from being alone in the middle of a huge crowd. The festival today was a lot of fun. I enjoyed many of the panels, and got to meet some of my favorite authors, and talked to a lot of cool people while waiting in various lines. But I wasn't WITH someone. I didn't have the family member or friend to save a seat for, or check in with, or turn to in order to see their reaction.
As I get older and a lot of my friends are in relationships or have children or jobs that don't allow them the flexibility to travel or go out, this is becoming more and more of a thing. If I want to do stuff I have to do it alone. Sitting alone in a bar or restaurant isn't too bad; you can read or write (I haven't yet succumbed to smart phone ownership or I'm sure I'd be on that too). But when you're in an art gallery in Toronto gazing at a painting so lovely it literally just made you cry, you want to share that with someone (...other than the stoic, bored-looking docent nearby). When you're screaming along with the lyrics at an Amanda Palmer show in London you want to be able to turn to the person next to you and see a friend, someone who knows you enough to understand how much this all means to you. When you hear an author you love make a really profound statement about storytelling, you want to be able to talk about it, to share what you think it means and hear another point of view. People leave room around you at the movie theater because they assume someone else is coming. Strangers might talk to you in the polite, distracted manner you use with a chatty neighbor on a plane ride or someone ahead of you at the Redbox machine that's renting the same DVD as you. But it's all surface level, about as substantial as cotton candy.
You can make new friends and have adventures on your own, but at the end of the day everyone else has someone they come back to. And when you're by yourself there's this feeling that comes sometimes. It may not be true, but it's still there: the thought that a giant claw (kind of like those machines with the toys at the grocery store) could descend from the sky and snatch you up out of the crowd and not a soul would even notice you were gone.