The Girl in the Empty House.

Dave was on a business trip last week when I flew out to Boston. He returned while I was gone, and then left again before I came back. When I arrived home on Sunday evening, I saw evidence of his having been here – a polished kitchen sink, the washer dial turned to hot, and tongs in the salad bowl in the refrigerator. Initially, I felt a tinge of sadness knowing he wouldn’t be home for another five days. But now, on Wednesday, still two full days away from his return, I’m having to be intentional to avoid being downright despondent. 

For most of my adult life, I lived alone. That was intentional on my part because I loved having space that was my own – space where I decided whether I wanted background noise, where I decided whether I wanted to put the dishes in the dishwasher or leave them in the sink, and where I ran the vacuum cleaner at any time, day or night, without fear of disturbing another person’s thoughts or sleep.

Dave only moved here in 2014. The transition from a house that was mine to a house that was shared was hard on both of us. I had moments of wishing he would go away for a bit, so I could sit in silence, clean my house, and have it stay clean until I dirtied it myself.   Sometimes I just wanted to sit in whatever my mood was without concern for how it affected him. I told Dave at various times that I wasn’t sure that I was designed to share space with another. “Maybe we could be neighbors,” I would say. “You have your place, and I have mine, and we connect when we want to.” I didn’t 100% mean that when I said it, but I meant it maybe 85%.

Now, I don’t see the boy for a week and can’t talk to him every minute of the day because he’s got work to do and suddenly I find myself pouring over the emails we exchanged in the early days of our then long-distance relationship because I desperately need to hear his voice and will settle for the written one. Those emails were lengthy and raw. Even I am astonished with the openness and the sweetness of our early conversations. The conversations weren’t easy, but they were rich, and we both said thank you a lot. Thank you for talking. Thank you for talking so long. Thank you for talking so openly.

What did I used to do at home alone? I know I did stuff. I watched General Hospital religiously, and I journaled a fair amount, and I wrote when I could. I haven’t watched GH in so long that my DVR is now perpetually full. I journal less, and I’m having to be intentional about trying to write more these days. That I do less of those things isn’t entirely because of Dave. It’s partly because I’ve taken on some other activities. But my question is really bigger than just that. It’s not just what did I do by myself? It’s more like what did I think about in all that time that I had alone?

Right now, mostly I’m thinking about how I can’t wait until Friday night, how great it’ll be to see him walk up the porch steps, and how I’m going to refuse to let him out of my sight this weekend. I feel his absence. I don’t just feel it; I talk to the cats about it. “I know, children. I miss Dad too. Shame on him for leaving us. Do you want to come sit with me?”

Good heavens, when did I go from loving my solitude to needing the presence of another to feel truly at home?  I don’t remember that happening, but clearly it has because I’m home, and I’m writing, and I have one cat siting on the table next to me, and another licking clean the bowl of salad I just ate. And all I can think about is how much I hope that Dave will FaceTime me from his hotel fairly soon.

Oh, and tonight I made one of the packaged salads that he’s taught me to buy – the kind that has the greens and a little bag of dressing and a little bag or two of extras, like sunflower seeds or croutons of different kinds. I made the Asian kind tonight, and I want to tell him that I ate half of it and put the rest in the fridge, along with the tongs that I used to mix the ingredients and serve myself. Three years ago – even two years ago – the tongs in the fridge would drive me batty. Today? Well, there are tongs in the fridge with the freshly made salad, and I’m the only one home.

Good heavens, when did I become – oh wait – gotta go. That’s Dave calling!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s