It is difficult and often inhibitory to attempt to capture emotion as such. To explain to a child with picture books the frustration, elation, envy, or ambition that they will one day feel is to explain color to a man who has been blind his entire life. I did not, in writing “three occupants,” wish to explain loneliness to a reader, who, I assume, is, or at least one day will be, intimate with it, but because for a person who is truly alone, there is nothing to do but to linger upon loneliness as such, and there is no easier way to attempt to advance beyond this than to transfer the sensation from the mind to the page.
There is a bittersweet taste to loneliness, for, as disagreeable as it is to have loved and lost, those of us who have been through such an experience would surely move mountains in order to preserve the memory of that which has been lost, the absence of which constitutes the burden of our present suffering. And I suppose that there is nothing more pleasant for the dying man than to meet his end, not merely in the presence of those who will survive him, but with those whom he has lost lining the walls around and within him, physical and mnemonic.
And, with regard to those we have at our fingertips, whose presence we are fortunate enough to share, who see us as we are now, whose memories of us are still developing, whose sum contribution to and importance in our lives has not yet been reached—why should we prefer them to the ones who have been left behind? For memory is, at least to the common perception, immutable, for the only changes that can be wrought by those we have lost are those changes that we allow our memory to impose upon them. These past lovers and parents and childhood friends, who once were so volatile and indomitable and capable of such harm, are, when lost, capable only of the harm that we wish of them.
It is remarkable that we allow people to exist beyond our memories at all. Say what you will about loneliness, if control and mandate over the world is what you wish, you will find no better place for it than here.
KLAUS CASTELLANO is an undergraduate student of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, though he has also studied at the University of Salamanca and the University of Alabama. He was awarded first place in the fiction category of the University of Alabama’s university-wide Creative Writing Contest as a freshman, recognized as one of The Authors Guild’s Breakout 8 writers alongside MFA graduates, and selected by Joyce Carol Oates for her short fiction seminar as a sophomore. He has been published in various literary magazines.