Thursday, June 10, 2010

Traveling light

Last night I unlocked the door and walked into an empty house. I placed my bags on the table and stood there, hearing nothing but the quiet rush of cold air. No one careened into my legs demanding attention. There was no shouting, no banging of pots and pans, no blaring TV.

For all my To Do lists, when faced with the reality of being truly on my own, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I wandered around for a few minutes like a ghost, disoriented, knowing there was a light somewhere meant for me disappear into, yet unable to find it.

I finally decided I was being ridiculous so I slipped on my swimsuit, grabbed a towel, and shuffled out the door.

And shuffle I did. Since Sunday my pace has slowed considerably. With no deadlines, demands, or people to satisfy, there’s been no need to constantly check a clock or step harder on the gas pedal.

It was overcast and humid, the grass still wet from recent rains. It’s my favorite time of day to go swimming – right before dark when everyone else is inside eating dinner and the lake is smooth and quiet.

Diving into the water and swimming just beneath the surface is one of the best feelings in the world. It envelopes you, feels like silk rippling over your skin every time you move a limb. I lay on my back underneath it and waved my arms lazily to stay down, looking up at the play of shadow and light.

I came up for air and struck out toward a neighboring dock, intent on swimming laps. But after only a few passes there was a buzzing around my head. I squealed and dunked under the water, swam a few yards, and resurfaced. A horsefly was determined to make my head his resting place and he chased me all over the cove before I finally conceded defeat and got out.

Back at home I took a long, hot shower and did something I never get to do: walk around in a towel. It seems so simple, but it’s a luxury I don’t get often. I was riffling through my dresser, looking for a t-shirt, when my hand found something unexpected – a short, blue silk nightgown with thin straps and a plunging neckline. I’d never worn it before – partially because of where it came from, and partially because it would just be silly to walk around a crowded house in such a thing.

I wrapped my wet hair in a towel and slipped the nightgown over my head. I reached back into my dresser and pulled out the sheer, matching robe. Shrugging it on and standing in front of the mirror, I felt just a tad silly. Maybe other people walk around their homes in silk and satin, but I’ve always been a cotton t-shirt kind of girl. I kept it on anyway. When would I ever get the chance to wear it again?

I could go on to tell you about how I ate a helping of chicken salad and watched the last half of Dirty Dancing. Or how I sat on the dark porch and smoked a cigarette, feeling every bit the old fashioned diva in my silk. Or about when the cat ran out the door and I had to chase after him in the dark, feeling not so much like a diva and more like a lunatic. Regale you with all my solo activities - exciting or otherwise.

Instead I’ll tell you this:

Being alone for an extended period of time is not exactly what I expected. I thought I remembered what it was like when I lived by myself, but I’d forgotten a few things.

Like the fear of walking past an uncovered window, seeing nothing but your reflection surrounded by black, and wondering if something or someone is looking back. Or the way that so much quiet time can make you think about things that you wouldn’t normally have the time or energy to think about. Or that feeling of isolation and disconnect – like you’re the only person in a 100 mile radius (except, of course, for the thing that may or may not be staring in your darkened window).

Last night I stared into space and listened to the fan whir overhead. I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts strayed from one thing to another – my day and the parts I enjoyed, the fear of the unlikely lurker outside my locked doors and bolted windows, how hard my family would laugh if they could have seen me decked out in my fancy night attire. I tossed and I turned, though I was physically more than comfortable.

Finally I picked up my cell phone and went to my messages. In the inbox were two videos my mother sent me earlier that day. In them my daughter is standing by a pool in her bathing suit, hands on her hips, demanding that everyone “watch this!”. She turns and shoots a grin over her shoulder before jumping into the pool, going underwater, and popping back up triumphantly, then running back up the stairs to do it again. I’ve been trying to get her to jump off the dock and stick her face in the water forever, and she never would.

I felt a mixture of things – pride for her little accomplishment, disappointment at not being there to witness it first hand, jealousy that my mom was getting to experience her first beach trip and I wasn’t. But mostly I just felt better. Because as much as I’ve enjoyed (and will continue to enjoy) my quiet time this week, the truth is I’m not actually alone. I won’t ever be again. And who really wants to be anyway?

I relaxed back into the pillows, closed my eyes, and fell asleep knowing I wasn’t so ridiculous after all. I found my light right where I’d left it –


The mad woman behind the blog said...

One, I am so jealous of the alone time and near a lake! Wow!
Two: Girl, if I haven't said it before, I love how you tell a story. Smooth as your silk nightie!
And three, the Kid is adorable. I love that pic!

Johana Hill said...

I crave for some alone time too! Been a while I didn't prance around the house naked. Or enjoy a cigarette with the stars for company. *sighs*

Enjoy it while it lasts! ;p

Anonymous said...

Ha! Caught you being sentimental about the kid! :) She seems cute and sassy. Hmmm, I wonder where she gets that from? Enjoy your alone time. It helps you appreciate the rest.

And that you can scratch your bum without looking behind you first. Allegedly.

Baz said...

I work alone, well most of the time and I know how both sides feel. However, I was alone when I read this and pleased that I was too, as a great big AAHHH came out at the end.

Phew that was close

Girl Interrupted said...

If I'm alone at night I always have to close the blinds and curtains, I think my imagination can be a little too vivid for it's own good, I've lost count of the times I've frightened the living crap out of myself with my own reflection :/

I really like the pic ... and I LOVE that swimsuit!

Didactic Pirate said...

Very nice. Amazing how valuable some quiet alone time is once you have kids. Last time I had the house to myself for a night, I kicked back in boxers and a T-shirt, had a beer, and watched two really, really bad Made-for-the-Sci-Fi-channel movies back to back, just cuz I could. I felt like Donald Trump.

Mr London Street said...

One of my favourite posts of yours. I know you're more comfortable with the funny posts than with the slightly more reflective and vulnerable ones, pieces like this show me that you might be able to pick a way between the two and write something (if this is possible) even better.

Didactic Pirate said...

P.S. You just got yourself a new regular reader.

Eric said...

Aw, no one is ever really alone unless they choose to be.
*drinking out by pool while working on mosaic stuff* said...

Ah man, I LOVED reading this!!! Alone time is magic.

Dawn said...

Glad you found your balance. With visitation for the kids working out right now, and the man working nights, I get to enjoy moments like these on a semi-regular basis. It's easy to get used to silk nighties and peaceful solace. It just takes practice. (Hope you get more practice in the future. But not too much.)

BugginWord said...

Lovely. Just lovely.

Don't forget to fart loudly while eating cookie dough in your silk nightie. It's kind of the best part of being a loner. Besides, the view from outside your window last night was pretty boring.

mylittlebecky said...

i just want to squeez you for this. squeeeeeeze you! also, when we went swimming with noodles recently, there was a damn dragon fly who kep landing on my noodle. at first i thought it was kinda cute then i started worrying about dunking it by accident then i found it really annoying. damn dragon fly.

Ally said...

wow, what an awesome post. like always i guess... i think you perfectly described the feeling anyone would have regarding your daughter and the beach, etc.

i have to tell you, i have a very short attention span and am glued to your stories, i really am.

i watch way too many horror movies and forensic reality tv - i think being alone at a lake house would kinda scare me. more so than when i lived alone in a cubicle-sized 4th floor walk-up for three years on a sketchy street in nyc. i'm a freak, i know.

Ally said...

oh and super cute kiddie pic!

steff said...

the girlie is ADORBS! gotta love that pose.
what else do i love?
this post.
you had me hanging on every word.
well done!

Gwen said...

It's so cliche but absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Beautiful writing.

Rusty Hoe said...

Damn you woman I may have teared up at the end there, and I don't do that girly touchy feely shit. Mini me is very cute by the way, sass is obviously passed on :)

Library girl said...

Having raised 3 monsters, I understand the urge for 'alone time' ... and how quickly it wears off when they aren't underfoot. Funny thing, that. Even now, with the oldest all grown up and living away from home, I miss her like nothing else and yet I acknowledge that one less = half the noise. Go figure.

cathyjoy said...

where'd the silk nightie come from? inquiring minds wanna know!

Annah said...

I love the feel of this post. Oh and your daughter, presh honey.Just presh. :)