This wouldn't have been such an inconvenience if it hadn't happened at 3:30 in the morning. I was deeply asleep, having one of those totally nonsensical dreams that is perfectly logical in the deepest slumber, when the distinctive chirp of the alarm woke me up. I blearily hauled my half-conscious body out of bed, stumbling down the hallway like a drunkard on a bender, and studied the alarm, which peered down at me imposingly. It chirped again. How was I going to reach it? I cursed my landlord for installing it at the highest point in the ceiling. I cursed the high ceiling. I cursed the very existence of smoke, smoke itself, which made such inventions necessary. I cursed my ex-husband for being my ex-husband. This was exactly the sort of thing I had kept him around for when we were married - to do all those annoying household things that are delegated to the male sex, like taking out the garbage and tinkering with the lawnmower and fixing the toilet when it overflows. The smoke detector seemed unreachable. It taunted me, chirping incessantly, mocking my meager five foot three inch frame. Eventually I piled books onto a chair, balanced precariously on top and, using a broom handle, knocked the detector's cover off, leaving it dangling from electrical wires from the ceiling. The smoke detector fought back, emitting a screech similar to those made by certain members of the owl family. I ripped its battery out and tossed it on the floor, certain I had assured my defeat. Amazingly, it chirped again, seemingly possessed by a demon determined to drive me insane. I ran into the kitchen, woozily grabbed a pair of scissors, and violently hacked at it. Perspiration ran down my back. The detector crashed to the floor, made a pathetic warbling sound, and died.
I had won.
I've never lived alone before. Now, stop staring at me like that. I swear, I have good reasons. I lived at home while in college, choosing to save a fortune on student loans by going to a state school and commuting to campus. It was just my mother and I, and we shared our space with relatively minor conflict - I did all of the housework and lived rent-free, while she mostly left me alone. Then I met my ex-husband, got engaged, graduated, got married, and relocated from my mom's apartment into an apartment with my now ex-husband, where I promptly got knocked up.
I moved into the house I currently live in back in May, which means I'm still in the process of learning to live on my own. I remember looking around when I first moved in and realizing, wow, everything in this house? It's MINE. And ONLY mine. It was kind of overwhelming. I slowly realized I would no longer have to deal with my ex's dirty clothes all around the house. I wouldn't have to clean the whiskers that peppered his bathroom sink after he shaved. I wouldn't have to cook what he wanted to eat for dinner, decorate according to his taste, or spend a single God dammed minute thinking about accommodating his needs anymore. That realization felt fantastic. I was free.
Before my ex and I separated, I remember feeling very alone and wishing I could live alone. It was unbearable to be under the same roof with someone and yet feel so alone all the time. Even before the idea of divorce came up, these feelings chased me. It didn't matter what state we lived in or how big our house was or how much money he made. When I finally told him I no longer wanted him, I spent a lot of time hiding outside on the patio, curled into a lawn chair, wondering how I was going to get through our separation. I couldn't visualize how I would take care of myself. I couldn't picture my own things in my own space. I couldn't imagine learning how to budget, to cover rent and the water bill and clothes and groceries and the occasional movie with my kids.
Now that I've learned how to do all of those things, and find myself thriving as a divorced single mom, I couldn't be happier. But it's hard to get used to sometimes. When something goes wrong, there's no one lying next to me in the middle of the night to ask for help. I'm sure my boyfriend would be happy to rescue me, but he has his own house and children to care for, and its important for me to learn to handle emergencies on my own, even if they seem insurmountable. While it's been incredibly empowering to teach myself how to get through the moments when things do go wrong, that doesn't mean I want to live alone for the rest of my life. Learning to be self-sufficient will eventually help me be a better partner when I do remarry, which I hope to someday.
In the meantime, I have smoke detectors to vanquish.