What’s It Like to Live Alone?


If I ever find out, it won’t be under any good circumstance.

People think a lot of things about me. I’ve put on too much of a normal face, I guess. A person suit that never quite fit.

I’m my mother’s oldest child. I planned to have a regular life. No one has a normal life. There’s no such thing as normal. I planned to have a regular life, to get married at some point, have no more than two children, work, and write. I thought that I would get an office job. Of course, I planned to go to college. My best friend and I had planned on going to the same college. Then her education route changed, and my home situation became chaotic, and I was needed at home.

I was needed to “watch” the baby sisters who despised me because I was too much like a parent.

I was needed to care for my grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s and dementia and was the sickest, most sad person I’ve ever know.

I was needed to “sit with” my grandmother after he died.

I got a job at the library within two weeks after graduating from high school, but they never promoted me to full time, even though they kept me on for 10 years. I was good enough to keep on for a decade, but not good enough to move up to between $18,000 and $19,000 per year.

I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids at 25. I had surgery to remove the fibroids and save my uterus. The fibroids came back, after I aged off my mother’s insurance.

I was needed to help raise the nephew whose birth I witnessed but who no longer speaks to me.

I went to college for a year and a half straight out of high school, an off-campus student working at night. I lost my financial aid. I took a second part-time job. The company went bankrupt. My grandmother paid for my community college tuition. She and my mother knew that I was interested in the law as a profession. I graduated with honors. That helped me get the job at the attorney’s office and leave the library. I was finally working full time . . . with no benefits. I had asthma. I had fibroids. All I managed to do was buy a nice used sedan and start paying rent at home.

One sister had moved out of town. The “baby” was still living at home and hard on drugs.

I got married. That failed, hard.

I moved in with a friend because the “baby” was still living at home and hard on drugs. My friend was hard on alcohol. I moved home.

Home is my grandparents’ house that my mom inherited after they died. The house is at least 112 years old. That’s according to the date printed on the oval iron plate from the water department. That’s when the house got running water.

What’s it like to live alone?

I’ve lived in a bedroom and, since the “baby” moved out, in half of the den. My aunt, who died of complications of Alzheimer’s and dementia, had the cutest little house out in the county. It was sort of like a trailer, but it was a house, built in the early 1970’s. It had a front, kitchen, and deck door. Three bedrooms, one small, two large. A little kitchen with a pass-through into a big dining area that looked out onto the deck and fenced back yard. A den big enough for a piano, fireplace, and furniture.

I always wanted that house. My mom has told me about the trailer where she lived alone until she had the misfortune to meet my father, but I of course never saw it. I saw my aunt’s house, with the carport, sunny flowerbed, compact, neat, paneled, beige apartment carpet, wicker furniture. The writing desk. I got the writing desk. After taking care of her for nine months until she got into the nursing home where she had worked as an RN, my mom and I had to clean out her house for the buyer. I took the desk. I took the desk because it reminded me of the independence I never had.

What’s it like to live alone?

What’s it like to decorate a house that’s neutral like an apartment, not to have to decorate on top of someone else’s crappy wallpaper? What’s it like to rearrange all your furniture and give some away because you’ve bought a new couch and coffee table? What’s it like to stay up all night on Friday and sleep until late Saturday afternoon with no one but the cats to care? What’s it like to not schedule your life around another person’s?

I’ll never know. What’s it like to leave the book you’re reading right-side up on the coffee table instead of turning it upside-down in case Someone Disapproving comes over? What’s it like to have a little toy train track going round the lamp on your dining table and plastic spiders by your stovetop just because?

What’s it like not to have a hundred pictures of deceased relatives and “God Made Mothers” plaques?

What’s it like to be writing this right now and be alone?



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