Once upon a time a woman’s husband leaves and she spends a few months in her house crying to friends on the phone all day and doesn’t go anywhere besides maybe Target or the grocery store because she doesn’t want to run into the husband at one of the two coffee shops or restaurants in the tiny downtown where everyone goes. She goes to Fire Island for a week to see her best friend, she goes to Vermont to see friends, she goes into the city once a week or so to see friends, these interludes help, but every time she goes back to her house she also goes back to crying to friends all day, as though he has just moved out the day before, even though a couple of months have somehow passed since the husband left. Then she goes to the city for a week to be with friends. A fancy pal and his wife offer her their fancy pied-à-terre in the East Village, and that’s better, she wonders why she hasn’t thought of going to the city sooner, she actually thought she was fine in her house, she loves her house, she feels comfortable in her house, it’s her house, the house itself isn’t any different now, the house did nothing wrong, yes, his stuff is still there, his art, his grandfather’s secretary, the fifties modern TV cabinet he pulled off 14th Street and restored to its glory, his dad’s old metronome next to her dad’s old metronome, okay, maybe some redecorating will be in order, but still, it never feels to her like the stuff or the house itself is the problem, it doesn’t even feel like being alone in the house is the problem, eventually it occurs to her that being alone anywhere now is a problem, but that she might be somewhat less alone in the big city than in the little city where her house is and where her husband and his girlfriend are.
Particularly annoying side thought is that there was a time when being alone had not been a real problem for her, at least insofar as she had always chosen to be alone over settling for someone so as not to be alone. She’s an only kid raised primarily by a single parent who often traveled. She knows how to occupy her time. She was not a kid who got bored. She was a kid who read, a kid who wrote, a kid who put on original plays in the tiny hallway by the elevator in her apartment building, who became an adult who read and wrote books that got made into plays that went into actual theaters. She stayed single until she was forty-one because she didn’t meet anyone she wanted to share her life or her space with until she met the man who became her husband. She remembers thinking, after having moved to Chicago and finally having the luxury of a broken-down but roomy two-bedroom apartment, Where would I ever put another person in here? She didn’t know that she’d work that out easily when the right person came along. (A right person? What does right person even mean now?) They’d surely have to get two more rooms just for him, wouldn’t they? The point of the annoying side thought is that she was mostly fine being mostly alone for much of her life before he came around, lonely sometimes, sure, but after fifteen years of living with another person, is no longer so fine with being mostly alone. She’s fine alone knowing another person, thankfully one she loves, is going to be there at the end of the day, the end of the work trip. At the end of the marriage, not so fine alone. Not so fine.