It was 8:42 am as I laid in bed, engrossed in a New York Times article about being single. The lights were off but the husband was stirring. I resigned myself to not fall back asleep after he left for the day, as I had done more often than not. I had to train myself to be awake earlier than I’d been since October for you see, I start a new job next week that requires I be on site at 8 am. I haven’t willingly seen 8 am… ok, maybe I have never willingly seen it, but I’ve not seen 8 am for free in several months. Unemployment does a lot of things to a body but in my case, its main attack is on my waistline and clock. I am a night owl by nature, but having nowhere to be and nothing to do, I soon found myself awake until 1 or 2 in the morning and asleep until easily 10, sometimes 11 or later, every day. I function better at those hours, I think they are my natural sleep cycle, social criticism notwithstanding.
This morning however, by the time Dylan got up to ready himself for the day, I’d already been awake for an hour. It was that crucial moment of decision-making: Do I try to get another bit of sleep or do I power through and begin training myself for early mornings? I erred on the side of adulthood and reached for my phone. Apartment hunting, light reading, annoying social media, then the New York Times. Soon, Dylan was up and moving. I heard his shoes snatched from their spot on the floor, the clink of his messenger bag clasp, then a perturbed, “hmm.”
Shuffle shuffle clink thud tap. Pause. “Honey, have you seen my wallet?”
I sleepily looked up. “No…where are your pants?” He pointed and said he’d already looked. I asked if he looked in his jacket pocket. It should be noted, I knew where his wallet was. At least, I had a good idea. We live in a studio apartment, there is literally no way to lose things unless they are stuffed into random purses, pockets, or have fallen behind a piece of furniture. His wallet was most likely on the bureau that houses our TV and linens. I waited. He said, “ah!” and held it up. I nodded and laid back down. He kissed me goodbye, ruffled sleepy Fred’s ears, and left. I resentfully threw the blanket off of me and got up to put some hot water on for coffee.
The New York Times article I was reading was about owning your singleness when you’re unattached, but how even in the quietest moments of even the most fabulous single person, loneliness can sometimes take over. I remember that feeling very well from my own single days, indeed. I recall a very particular moment at my local salon (best cheap and fast eyebrow wax in the city) when I laid down on the appropriated massage table, the sweet Mexican stylist leaned over me and gently brushed the hair away from her work surface. Suddenly, a wave came over me that wanted to ask her to do it again. I realized that I hadn’t been touched by another person in an intimate, sweet way in so long that I hungered for it and didn’t even know it. I will never forget the feeling of that sweep of her hand, it was motherly and kind, even if it was just part of her job. It was so lovely in that moment in fact, that I do not recall the hot wax and ripping hair that quickly followed. Just the sensation of a light but intentional touch.
I don’t remember where I was in life, why I was so alone, but I have very little doubt that it was mostly due to decisions of my own making. It took me a long time to realize that the majority of situations in which I find myself are – shock of all shocks – my own damn fault. Remaining single was, in some way, a sort of penance for the bad choices that lead up to single status in the first place. For the most part, I loved it. Total freedom, no critique, no obligation, go anywhere and do anything. Except for the most part, what I found I did more often than not, was drink a little too much or often, and wonder why I wasn’t invited to hang out with friends who I knew were all together without me (these are not mutually inclusive, but it was the hint of a well of loneliness I hadn’t fully known). It was when I began to scowl at loving couples on the CTA that I knew I was hitting a critical point.
So why is it now then, after settling down and living happily with a man I love, that I find myself missing a bit of that lonesome feeling? Maybe there was dignity in it, somehow. These days, I find myself saying, “we” much more than “I” in casual conversation about goods and plans, and I wonder if it’s as annoying to others as it sometimes is to me. I love being married, I wouldn’t trade it for a single hot second, but there is a certain amount of nostalgia for the do-whatever of those days. It’s impossible not to become a “we” since most decisions are made in tandem now, in spite of the deep need to somehow remain independent. But something kind of wonderful happens in the union, too. When I’m having a stir crazy day and feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin from being cooped up, he takes me for a beer or three (possibly the most effective pacifier). He does the dishes a few days in a row. He walks the dog an additional shift so I can stay inside and warm. And in exchange, I vacuum, gather the laundry together before we have to go do it, make sure the bills are paid on time, and what the calendar has coming. We work around each other well, and if he needs a hug or I need my hair brushed out of my face, we’re on it. We’re figuring it out, there is no room or need for loneliness now. In short, I know where his wallet is.