Saturday, May 20, 2017

Solitude

I decorated the porch for this apartment. It's on the third floor, and it faces south and west and the sun slants in, warm and quiet as the days grow steadily longer. It faces a tiny patch of grass and an alley and several other apartment buildings from which I can fairly often overhear people fighting, so it's nice, but, you know, it's also the kind of porch you get off the back wall of an affordable apartment. I put up twinkle lights and chairs and a little metal side table. I filled three pots with herbs and hung a planter and a thermometer with a cheery red needle. I almost never go out there. I don't sit in the chairs except briefly, sometimes, when I get back from a run. I have never, not once, plugged in the twinkle lights. I water the herbs and the planter out of habit. The porch feels like so many other things in my life - like a stupid naive field-of-dreams-type fantasy where I imagined that if I built it, they would come - "they" being someone to share this with. Someone to sit on the porch with me. Someone with whom to install a carseat safely into my sturdy, family-friendly SUV. Someone to eat the pile of leftovers sitting in my fridge until they rot.

And yes, through it all, I am fine. Painfully so. I am really good at being alone. I cook healthy food and I pay all my bills and I work my ass off and never call in sick. I'm open and friendly to cashiers and patients and coworkers. I take the dog for hikes and I go to concerts and I go out to dinner and I go see movies in the theater and I read epic novels from the library and watch interesting shows on Netflix and I talk to my parents and I nurture my friendships and contemplate relearning Spanish - and I do it all alone.

A colleague and I made small talk last night at a going away party. He asked me about why I take my dog to daycare thirty minutes away when I'm at work. I looked at him steadily. We've been friends for almost two years now. Because there's no one else to take care of her for twenty-four hours at a time, I said. He blushed. My perpetual singleness embarrassed him.  He had married (way above his station) and had two beautiful children by the time he was my age.

I told my therapist about Richard. About our relationship and how tumultuous it was, how I felt like I was always guessing at what to do and how to be. Why did you stay with him for so long? she asked me. For a lot of reasons, some of which I mentioned. But mostly because I worried - rightly, as it turned out - that he was my last shot at having a partner and a family on the approximate timeline I'd envisioned.

I change the radio station in the car when love songs come on. I drag my dog into the bed with me most nights, bending myself around her warmth. I cry, briefly and hard and then stop, telling myself savagely, The world doesn't owe you a partner. The world doesn't owe you a single fucking thing.

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