After sharing a bedroom through adolescence with my sister; after rounds of college and grad school roommates; after building a home with a husband until he left; after my fiancé moved in; after being single the last ten years and without kids. After, I’ve grown territorial. In lockdown, it’s magnified. Home is my sanctuary, my chaperone.
I moved out of LA 25 years ago to the Northern California countryside, convincing my company to reimburse home dial-up modem service and a fax machine. No one had yet worked from remote. Colleagues couldn’t understand why I’d want to. They didn’t know what a chorus of frogs from the nearby lagoon sounded like after a night rain. They didn’t wonder, during conference calls, about the palpable cries of red-tailed hawks imploring mates from my old oak. When my boyfriend visits, he brings Spotify, but otherwise I stream silence.
I’m neither an introvert nor a hermit. My energy and inquisitiveness make such people uncomfortable. Yet I cultivate solitude willingly. Attending the theater solo feels decadent. How dare I travel stag to honeymoon destinations, or toast a new year in a favorite dress with only the kiss of champagne? With swagger I claim the single vacant stool on a Saturday night among couples out on dinner dates, outlasting them. I bother quartering complicated recipes and grooming daily, championing treats for one.
Alone? Not with a camera and notebook. They make ideal companions because they never distract. In fact, they give me superpowers: x-ray vision and super-sonic hearing. Alone, every scene intensifies. Tiny details gain significance that only I recognize – revelations. Eavesdropping unravels motives and exposes truths…of subway riders, lobby trysts, Sunday brunch gangs, and sidewalk passersby. Hypotheses ignite, which I scrawl or snap to memorialize. Maybe I’m an author or a food reviewer or a journalist, they surely wonder. A lone woman of mystery. “A lone woman” being different from “alone woman.”
So why does a stay-home decree change the calculus of tranquility? News on loop melts days into midnights broken by COVID-19 consciousness at 6:40AM again, no reason for that time, no alarm, no commute. In the bakery line, bored banditos and burglars blend in. Is anyone smiling? Whose voice spoke? The thrill of speculation hinges on relativism but now there’s only one story, muffled by masks. Here, a striking abundance of N95 respirators signals Tubbs and Kincade fire survivors, our cruel smoke dissipated, but now mutated into a virus. I took a blurry selfie with my only visitor in weeks, the ladybug on my shirt. Should I mention it on the Zoom call? I feel no triumph crossing the road to the mailbox without looking both ways, despite my granted long-time wish that traffic would disappear. Wiping off groceries, I keep replaying the accidental touch of a gloved finger handing back change.