My husband’s in India attending a family crisis and I am suddenly, without warning all by myself in our apartment. It may sound ludicrous (to me it did when I hit this realisation) that I may be a loner, but I do not like to be lonely. I may be cooped up in my room but I need to sense the existence of life in my vicinity. The faint sound of TV, the tinkering of glasses coming from the kitchen, a pack of chips popped open, a vile sneeze from an allergic reaction, courtesy the man I live with – well, cumulatively they work in keeping me sane and ticking. The point is I don’t need someone to talk, smile, be nice to me all the time but if they can somehow compile and compress themselves into a continuous background noise, I would get through my day just fine.
Without this background noise – the rustling and ruffling, swaying and swishing- when I am truly hopelessly undeniably alone, I feel awkward. With myself. It is as if the seamless conversation that we have with ourselves in our mind, the one that gives us direction throughout the day – get up, brush your teeth, clean the house, make coffee, hit the shower, exercise, start working, take a break, go for a walk and so on – is replaced with radio silence. And this silence is frazzling.
To restore sanity in such trying times I baby sit myself. The job is difficult and thankless but someone’s gotta do it! It’s more like having to engage a whiny hyperactive toddler for a long period of time and not getting paid for the effort. ‘But if you are a bit patient, tad creative and intermittently forgiving, you may sail through this period of absence of your loved one’ proclaims my inner guru. ‘Ommm’ I say and get cracking.
First up is to keep my task list full. Activities are lined up back to back because no task equals prospective moping. In between there’s allowance for breaks to do what the heart fancies – watch TV, eat ice-cream from the tub, go shopping. When I dragged myself to Raffles City Mall the other day, I found an amazing Jazz musician in a dapper suit parked right outside a lifestyle store, making wonderful music. The blues melted away. I stood there listening as long as he played and sketched along. The colours were added at home much later. The fiery red and the garish yellow chaotically dumped over spindly lines mirrored my mental state. The sublimity of the evening had subsided and the restlessness was coming back. I didn’t like the outcome but it was cathartic so I let it be.
Cooking for self is another bugaboo during such times, especially when you’ve been programmed to always consider what the other person likes to eat. So instead of flipping out, I simply eat out. But, I choose carefully. The more inconspicuous (bordering on invisible) I can be at a place, the better it seems. Happy couples, chatting gaily in the glow of candlelight, leisurely pouring wine into each other’s glasses are red flags. So are friends huddled at a table celebrating birthdays in their singsong voices. Lonely office guy with droopy shoulders hunched over his bowl of soup or jaded single mother force feeding her rebellious child, well, they work perfectly as my comrades-in-gastronomy. Two nights ago, I walked into You and Mee – an unpretentious hole in the wall noodle shop in my neighbourhood with bare walls, functional long wooden tables and stools – and had a 5$ dinner with a similar crew of discontents. Felt right at the time.
Five days, ‘x’ hours and ‘x’ minutes have passed since I’ve been on my own ( The ‘x’ represents my disinclination to sound desperate). But things are getting better. I am getting a hang of this. The voice is whimpering its way back. It sent me into the kitchen last night. I whipped up roasted chicken breast and paired it with warm fluffy couscous. It also sent me to a museum yesterday. I spent an entire Sunday afternoon learning about the richness of Peranakan culture and came back with a double spread sketch and a great mood. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go to the library and later eat at a nice chirpy cafe nearby.
Maybe I’m going to be just fine.