There are a lot of things I enjoy about being single, all of which are a total revelation to me, because I've never BEEN single. I met my husband when I was 16 years old. Sure, we had an on-again, off-again relationship for many years before we were married, but even during those years I never lived on my own. I moved straight from my childhood home, in which I slept for the most part with one or more sisters in the same room, if not in the same bed, to a dorm room with a roommate lying under me in our bunks every night, to an apartment with three roommates and constant overnight visitors sprawled on the couch, to a home and bed with Eli. Never was I alone. It occurs to me that I do not know how to be alone.
And I am not alone, not really. Most days and nights I have my insistent little shadow, following me even into the bathroom when I have to pee, demanding that I play "crashing darbies" or farm tractors, or sit and watch Dora the Explorer next to him on the couch. His toes dig into my stomach at night as he sleeps in my bed and I lie there not sleeping, listening to the marble-crunching sound of his grinding teeth.
So this weekend, while my son is with his father, I have been pretty much unprecedentedly alone. My time has been my own, which is nothing but strange to me. After work yesterday afternoon, I felt the panic of being set adrift, of not having anywhere in particular to be and no one to be responsible to. The simple fact of my presence not being expected or required anywhere was a most foreign, and a frightening feeling.
I woke up this morning, at 2:30 almost on the dot (no matter what time I retire or what medication I take before doing so, I always wake at 2:30 a.m. with no hope of getting any more rest), all alone in my bed in my quiet house that isn't really my house, this place of limbo and uncertainty. I lay there awake, staring at my pillow or the ceiling. It took me probably a good half hour of lying there before I realized that my insomnia wasn't disturbing anyone. There wasn't anyone but me there for it to disturb. I could get up. I could turn on all the lights in the house, crank up MY music, dance like mad. I could grab the nearest paperback and read until the sun came up and then sleep all day. I giggled out loud at the thought, and the volume of my laughter didn't matter either.
This morning I crawled out of bed at 8:30 and took a long shower while listening to the Shins. This evening I'm going out on the town, to eat and drink and see a production of Rent with a friend. It's exhilarating to discover that I have my own set of likes and dislikes and that I don't ever have to watch HG TV again if I don't want to.
A new friend asked me last week what my plans are now that I'm on my own. "What do you want to do?" he inquired. I thought about it for a moment, and said, "You know...I haven't the slightest idea. I guess the world is my oyster..."
He smiled and tilted his head a little confusedly and replied, "Of course it is, Rachel. It always has been."