The first thing I should say before launching into this story is that I’m used to living alone. I lived alone for three years in Toronto, and then for another year in Guelph, and then another eight months while I was finishing my MLIS in London. I like to live alone. I think when I live alone that I am truly me, completely actualized, doing whatever I like. It’s sort of primal, actually doing what you feel you want to instead of what’s expected. As soon as you put another pair of eyes and ears into a place, the way you live becomes different, no matter how much you love whoever it is. Living alone is just different that way.
But for the last five months I’ve been living with other people. My folks, to be specific. In the lag time between finishing school and actually landing a job, I’ve been living back in ye olde homestead, helping my mother adjust to retired life, providing free babysitting services to my sister and my brother-in-law, and trying to be vaguely unannoying. It’s been years since I’ve lived here. Nearly 12 years, actually.
When my parents went to Greece for a week, leaving me to mind the pets, my brother-in-law said, “Must be nice to have the place all to yourself, eh?”
“Not really,” I said. “I miss my mom.”
I realized as I said that that I hadn’t been alone in a very long time. For someone who likes a lot of alone time, it seemed odd to me that I hadn’t noticed the lack of it, and odd that I felt awkward being alone again.
Last night I stayed over at my sister’s house while they were off at a wedding for the weekend. I’m here to abuse the wireless connection and to keep their pet feline company. As I closed my computer and turned out the light last night, the world felt eerie. Alone in a house. The absences of the people who should be here were palpable, as if there were a cutout space of air for my sister, for her husband, for their son. The last word I heard from the This American Life show I was listening to was “psychotic”. The show finished, I shut off the player, put the computer away. The sound of Ira Glass’s voice saying that one word reverberated through the room for a while. Psychotic, psychotic. And for some long minutes everything was psychotic. The walls, the dull glow from the window behind me, the shadows of things I imagined lurching around in the dark, and me. Alone in a house. Completely alone.
By this time next week I’ll be putting the finishing touches on my pile of boxes and random sticks of furniture, waiting for the movers to pick it up and take it to my new home. Which will be mine. Mine alone. It’s not so much that I have doubts that I can handle it; it’s just that I’m not used to even considering whether or not I can.