I used to live alone. Thanks to a chance meeting in the street with the friend of an ex, I was briefly able to circumvent the ridiculousness of the London housing market and rent several rooms, just for me.
I became part of a trend, a self-indulgent singleton with an entire address in which to work on my eccentricities. I thought a lot about all that solitude prior to moving in, though. Would I get lonely? Would I miss having other people around, who weren’t invited guests? Would I become an irrevocable solo-dweller, incapable of domestic compromise in years to come? I went into it cautiously, braced for the moment when the isolation would start to make me miserable.
It never arrived. Months went past, and then a year, and more, and I was still waiting for the loneliness to arrive. I changed very little. I made more of an effort to make plans with friends and colleagues on weeknights now that I had no expectation of any social contact once I got home, but that was about it. I had my low patches, weekends where I barely got out of bed and cried for no reason I could name, but I’d done that when I lived with other people, too. Most of the time, it was blissful: watching films in the bath, leaving piles of books everywhere, storing spare socks in the kitchen like Zizek.
Then my rent went up and an old friend was looking for someone to move in with him. I humped all the boxes back down out of my strange little eyrie and ceased to be a lone ranger. My fears about being unable to compromise anymore were unfounded. For months, it was a perfectly congenial arrangement (we both like 1990s computer games and not cleaning the bathroom too often), but I never for a second considered that it could be better than my selfish solitude.
Until today, that is. I haven’t been feeling very well the past few weeks (lots of anxiety, quite a bit of nervous weeping, very little sleep). I’ve lost hours at a time sitting perfectly still, staring into space and thinking of nothing but the fact that my heart is beating too fast. I kept putting off getting any help, telling myself it was just a “bad week”, and I would be better soon.
Finally, I booked a doctor’s appointment for this morning. I had very little intention of actually going, though. By my perverse reasoning, the doctor’s surgery is where you get bad news, so it’s best just never to go there, and then nothing bad will ever happen to you.
My flatmate knew all this. He leaves for work before I do, so was gone when I woke up. However, he had left a bright pink note saying “DOCTOR” on every single thing I would need to touch before I could go out: my toothbrush, the shower, the milk, the juice, the kettle. An enquiring text solicited only the same response. “DOCTOR”, the message read, sternly.
The cumulative effect was so positive that I smiled through the necessary morning tasks, collecting each note as I went. When I left the flat, I walked straight to the doctor’s surgery.
For the first time, I felt glad that I no longer live alone.