I’ve been craving alone time in recent weeks, which comes as something of a surprise. I’ve always needed it, to be sure, and I am inclined to become cranky when I don’t get enough of it, but since I’ve been on my own it has rarely been in short supply.
For a while after I moved out of the apartment I shared with Phil, it made me slightly nervous to spend too much time by myself. Knowing this, I tried to arrange my days so that each one would include at least one cup of coffee, one drink, or, if all else failed, one phone call with a friend. On most days I achieved this goal easily, but every now and again I’d have no choice but to resign myself to my nerves.
When you live with someone for a long time--and by this I mean a decade or more--you become physically accustomed to co-presence in much the same way that you become accustomed to smoking. The person, like the cigarette, is always near at hand, and even when they are not, you know that it is only a matter of time.
In the days after Phil left, there were strange, almost hallucinatory moments when I felt his absence as amputees must sense a ghost limb. He was palpably there and not there, a physical habit suddenly broken but not forgotten by the body. It took months for me to learn how to sleep in the centre of the bed, which is to say it took months for me to learn how to live alone.
Yes, I needed to learn this.
Still, it is one thing to learn a lesson, and it is another thing to live as though one has always known it. Today, while walking across a skin of ice to the supermarché, it occurred to me that solitude doesn’t make me nervous anymore. In fact, on a day like today, when the apartment is impenetrably warm and the cats take long turns on my lap, it is a special and entirely necessary pleasure.