The knock came last night around eight. I froze in panic, hoping that my inertia would somehow trick the visitor into believing I wasn’t home in spite of the lights and the television and the fact that until the knock, I had been belting out Brandi Carlile. I waited motionless in my desk chair until the danger passed, left the TV and the lights on, and wondered if I could escape through my kitchen window if they broke in through the front door or if I would end up like The Shining.
They didn’t knock again. The panic receded.
I wonder what they wanted. I wasn’t expecting a package or a pizza or the cable guy. I haven’t met any of my neighbors yet; perhaps one was stopping by to introduce themselves or give me some Christmas cookies or beg me to please God please stop singing all the time. (In my defense, only one of my walls backs up to another unit, and I never sing near that wall unless my neighbor is playing TV really loudly, in which case I think I’m justified. Also, I am the reincarnation of Karen Carpenter, and they should appreciate the nightly free concert.)
I didn’t consider answering the door. I live alone and I’ve been led to believe by our misogynist collective wisdom that a woman living alone who dares to answer the door is akin to a woman who wears a short skirt in public: she’s basically asking to be robbed/raped/murdered. (This is sarcasm. Enjoy it.) I’ll continue to tell myself that it was a kind neighbor or a lost delivery boy because I relish living alone and I don’t want it to become part of my omnipresent low-grade panic, which is usually fixated on more pressing matters like whether I’ve gained a quarter-inch on my waist or if the next flight I take will crash into the Rockies or when I’m going to make a critical error at work and get fired. I don’t want to add to that the possibility that I’ll be murdered by an axe-wielding stranger.
I often feel incompetent; I’m young and look even younger and I don’t generally present myself in a way that makes people take me seriously. (I don’t say this to insult myself. I’m just kind of… a young person. Like, my spirit animal is a baby pigeon, and I’m willing to post a phrase like that under my own name on the Internet.) To say that I live alone lends me an air of credibility: oh, you live alone! You Swiffer your own floors and toast your own bagels and write your own rent checks! (Is it me or do those all sound like bad euphemisms for masturbation?) I spend more than I should on rent and I’ve built a lot of furniture alone that was meant to be assembled by more than one person. I’m probably doomed to be crushed by a bookcase because I couldn’t figure out how to attach it to the wall using the included wall attachment kit so I just… didn’t.
The joys of living alone are well-documented. You only have to wipe your own hair out of the shower. If the dishes lay crusted over in the sink for a week, you know exactly whose bed to dump them on. Nobody will sing opera in the shower while you’re lying in bed trying to sleep off an inadvisable series of whiskey gingers. I’ve had my share of roommate adventures–senior year of college in a wasp-infested glorified double-wide with my four best friends; a ratty walk-up in Astoria with three strangers from Craigslist; a converted three-bedroom separated from campus by a graveyard with two girls, two kittens, two guitars, and a saxophone for four months in 2008–and I can state definitively that all these benefits outweigh the occasional bout of existential angst that interminable hours alone can beget.
I wonder sometimes if I’ll turn into a weird old lady who lives alone with a lot of cats and a garage full of newspapers. As it stands, I’m a weird young lady with a lot of books and a faux leather storage ottoman full of journals. The world makes me anxious and I derive a lot of comfort from retreating into my house and writing for hours, reading for hours, watching “How I Met Your Mother” for hours.
I have one or two friends that I could live with and I like to think that one day I’ll love someone enough to stand their toothpaste stains on my bathroom countertop. In the meantime, I’ll continue to live blissfully alone, to relish the hours I spend in the company of my own mind, to pass hours in exciting places with friends and to come home to the comfort of my sheets that may or may not have been washed in the past… month or two. I think that of all the things that I’m grateful for right now–and it’s a laundry list if there ever was one–living alone is near the top. It is a gift.
Where was I? A stranger knocked at my door, and there was nobody there to defend me but me? I suppose I can handle an axe murderer, so long as I don’t have to clean their hair out of my shower drain.