Alone in the cinderblock cottage

For the past few days, after coming back to Chapel Hill from D.C. and Vinnie's graduation, I've been alone. J was showing off his scientific best at the microbiology conference in Orlando, and I'll admit, when driving home Monday night after a very long, very intense town board meeting, I started to get pretty sad. I thought about our months since marriage and realized that J and I haven't spent much time apart. In fact, we've spent a lot of time doing things together, like trips to see family and friends, attend weddings and such. Before we got married, I took many a trip up north to decide, you know, what color napkins we needed for the place settings, while J stayed home and did other, arguably more important things, like break down DNA samples of tuberculosis strains. So going up to the graduation without my other half was the first time I'd taken a car trip alone in some time, and Monday was the first time I'd come home to an empty house in what seemed like forever.

We are, in my opinion, a couple that values independence. If I don't feel like going out for a drink with friends, J doesn't make me, nor does he miss out on the experience himself, and vice versa. We both understand that there will be times when one of us, either by desire or necessity, may take a trip that the other won't go on. And both of us, I think, understand the importance of having some time alone now and then. I'm an extrovert by nature. I can only spend so many hours home alone before I'm itching to go out to a coffee shop just to be near people. However, due to a very busy past couple of weeks, I realized these quiet nights alone this week would probably be good for me.

When I was driving home Monday night, though, and knew J wouldn't be there on the couch watching television or in the bed reading the Stephen King series he's recently become obsessed with, I didn't think about how "good" this time alone would be, but only about how I'd be lonely.

And I did miss him. I've missed him all week and can't wait until he returns this evening.

But I did, somehow, manage to get used to being all by myself in our little house. Very used to it. For instance, I don't know if you all are aware, but they've recently starting showing biographies of Food Network chefs, much like the E True Hollywood Story, and if there's no one there who minds, you can watch, two, three - four of them in a night. I realized that my constant desire to clean up every little mess and rid the sink of dirty dishes is, perhaps, more an issue of control, than functionality, because I became totally ok with dropping my pjs on the bathroom floor before my shower in the morning and then leaving them there. All week. Lying fully stretched out on the couch and watching tv while reading a magazine while having a glass of wine while letting the dogs lick my dinner plate after I'd finished. Sleeping diagonally across the bed, with things in there with me, like the book I'd been reading and my work clothes, which I know J hates. I remembered little habits of mine and came to understand that I can sleep hard as a rock all night long with or without someone else in the bed.

This isn't to say I'm not myself when my husband's around. Certainly the opposite. I can be more myself with him than practically anyone. It's just that it's been such a busy period and I'd forgotten what it's like to be ok with your own company, to like who you are when you are all by yourself.

And to be able to be alone once in a while, knowing that you aren't truly alone at all.

My father, who knew I was alone and possibly lonely and possibly getting murdered, called me more regularly than usual to ensure I was alright. Yesterday morning, just after my alarm went off around 7:30 a.m. the house phone rang and I sat bolt upright, wondering why in the name of God someone was calling me so early. While reaching for the phone my mind raced with the possibilities. Could my brother, who'd just arrived the day before in Istanbul for a three week long European jaunt, have been kidnapped by Turkish pirates? Were my parents ok? What about J, so far away in Orlando, and all the recent alligator attack incidents?

When I reached the phone, luckily, it was only my happy father, who greeted me with a good morning song as I sank back down into the cozy bed, surrounded by our cat, the most recent New Yorker, a denim skirt - "Good moorrrrrrnnnnnnniinnnnngggggggggg Cara, best daughter in the world!" Once his song was over he began with the usual, the inevitable, to a daughter, home alone (it doesn't matter if she is 12, or 28): "Hello darling. I just wanted to make sure you were alive."