Table For One
“This is not full circle. It’s Life carrying on. It’s the next breath we all take. It’s the choice we make to get on with it.”
-Alexandra Fuller, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dog’s Tonight
My mother calls her life a sacrament of interruption. Growing up, the door was always open. Each day would begin with the fear and possibility that came with never knowing who would grace us with their presence and their problems. Solitude was an unknown entity for me. When I graduated from college, however, I moved to Nicaragua. There, I was constantly surrounded by people. All the same, I felt a loneliness that was as foreign to me as the strange country that I was supposed to be calling home. I had no real reason to be there, no purpose or direction except for the faint sense that it had been the right decision at the time—cold comfort and no substitute for a loving coterie of family and friends. It was the only time that I lived in fear, the only time I was ever attacked, the only time I cried myself to sleep on a regular basis. It was also the only time I ever lived alone.
After Nicaragua, I lived with my family in the home where I grew up, in an intentional community in rural Georgia, with a roommate in Gabon who has probably heard my stories more than my fiancé, in a shared student accommodation with seven other people in Belfast, and finally with Gareth in a wonderful little cottage in an idyllic seaside town. Several months before leaving Northern Ireland, I began searching for a place to live in Durham. While the process consumed me, it never came to any resolution. It was only when I was in Durham looking for a place that I realized that I was scared to live alone.
While I have many weaknesses, dependency has never been one of them. After almost a decade of bouncing around to new places around the world, I came to pride myself on my independence and adaptability. It came as a shock to me that I might be frightened by something so simple as finding a place to live in my own country, in my own region even. Gareth and I drove to Durham several days ago. It was 105 degrees. Before we even got on the interstate, I had somehow managed to douse both of us with gasoline due to a broken gas nozzle and my own special ability to do amazingly stupid things. When we arrived, Gareth was appalled by the Spartan accommodations I had chosen, a cinder-block duplex with no ventilation in a neighborhood scared him.
In the few days that he was here, we explored the city together. We ate good food, saw good movies, even bought a good house. In the back of my mind, however, I envisioned how I would feel when Gareth would leave and I would be alone in a place reminiscent of a bomb shelter or township home. In my mind’s eye, I saw a prison door closing; in my mind’s ear I heard the clang reverberate and reiterate my lone status. When he left, however, the anticipated fear never arrived. Instead, I felt an unexpected relief for the opportunity afforded to me to read, to sleep, to drink beer in my very first piece of purchased furniture (a seven dollar red camp chair complete with a convenient drink holder) and listen to the noises of the neighborhood. I sat in my solitude surrounded by the hum of the wall unit air conditioner, the thud of a basketball on the asphalt, the buzz of the crickets outside and was reminded that I was not alone.