Once upon a time I went to college.
Now that event alone isn't so remarkable, but it was the only time in my life that I have lived alone. Separate. Cut off.
I rented a room and bath in the home of a 50-ish year old working lady whom I never saw. Literally. She would leave for work at 5 am and not return until late. I had the upstairs, and she had the rest of the house. It being her house, I suppose that went without saying.
So there I was - suddenly responsible. For things like laundry, meals, television repair. My kitchen consisted of a refrigerator smaller than small and a toaster oven. Which might lead one to think that all I ate were grilled cheese sandwiches and all I drank was beer. One might be right.
Oh it was very Thoreau-like in its way. It was surely a simple life, I biked to classes, studied at the library, picked up bread/cheese/beer at the grocery and did a little laundry. I wrote a lot. I played draftsman at night, sitting at a tiny portable table with a T-square and lead holder pencil, scratching out diagrams of machine parts for class when what I really wanted to draw were gracious homes and the keel of a small boat.
I stared out the window a great deal.
It was the first and last time in my life that I was alone, single. It seemed a very much depressing time while it was going on. There was no hand holding, no noises to interrupt. It was as though the world had stopped and said "Here. You wanted solitude, this is what the monks have. And we can go on for as long as you like."
It was my one semester away. When the term ended, so did the room upstairs.
I try to keep that little piece of time squirreled away in the basement of my mind, stacked beside old magazines and empty peach baskets. Sometimes when I want to hear perfect and utter silence I go down there and sit, looking straight ahead and rocking back and forth with the concentration of trying to remember what it was like. To hear nothing at all.
I'm not sure that a grilled cheese has ever tasted the same.
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