Penny chose Oslo -- not even New Oslo, just Oslo, as if they thought they came up with it first -- for its total lack of anything that might distract him. He arrived in mid-September and had no trouble renting a small farmhouse on the outskirts of town on a one-lane rural route. His landlord was a retired schoolteacher who handed him the keys and then fled to his winter in South Carolina. Penny's nearest neighbors on either side were a congregationless one-shack Pentecostal church and an out-of-session summer camp for disturbed children. It was perfect. He had found his Walden.
He had everything he needed: silence; solitude; a U-haul trailer packed with an enviable library of magical codices, monographs, chapbooks, reference books, ad broadsheets. He had a sturdy desk, a well-lit room, and a window with an unscenic view of an unmown backyard that offered no particular temptation to gaze out at it. He had a manageable, intriguingly dangerous research project that showed every sign of maturing into a genuinely interesting line if inquiry. He was in heaven.
But one afternoon a few weeks after he arrived, as he sat at his desk, his watery blue eyes trailing over words of consummate power written centuries ago with a pen made out of a hippogriff feather, Penny found his mind wandering. His large, usually lineless brow crinkled. Something was sapping his powers of concentration. Wa he under attack, maybe by a rival researcher? Who would dare! He rubbed his eyes and shook his head and focused harder. But his attention continued to drift.
It turned out Penny had discovered in himself a weakness, a flaw he never would have suspected himself of in a thousand years, an age to which, with a few careful modifications that he would look into wen he had the time, he had every intention of living. The flaw was this: he was lonely.
The idea was outrageous. It was humiliating. He, Penny, was a stone-cold loner, a depserado. He was the Han Solo of Oslo. He knew and loved this about himself.
This describes me almost perfectly. Sometimes I want cloister myself off and just read and study and solve problems, free from the oppressive burdens of human interactions... but I just can't. I can go with very little human interaction, but very little still isn't none. And it has been interesting to learn of my own possession of the weakness of needing human interaction.
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