In the past, I'm happy to say that I’ve had nothing but positive roommate experiences, but still, living alone has always been the dream. Not even the most discrete of roommates could trump the idea of an empty house all to myself, and now I have one! It’s great! Most of the time, at least.
So as I’ve mentioned before, my program coordinator hooked me up with a delightful living situation through a friend of hers who has since become a landlady and a friend. She invites me for lunch on the weekends, offers me rides to the grocery store and the train station, has brought me presents more than once, and I pay rent, so we’ve got a real good thing going for us. What I’m paying for is just a room in her old family home next door to where she lives, and it’s largely unoccupied except for academic breaks and the occasional weekend, when her siblings or nieces come to stay in the extra rooms. For all intents and purposes, though, I live alone in an old two-story French house, bidet and all.
For the most part, rattling around this big empty place by myself has lived up to all my expectations. I went from living with four other women to living with my parents to this, which made the benefits of my newfound solitude immediately apparent. While I love every person with whom I've lived, nothing compares to laying claim to an entire pantry and refrigerator. I can stock up on beer without having to pack the bottles in the fridge like a game of tetris around a household’s worth of tupperware, and nobody will see the astounding volume of canned beans I buy on a regular basis, much less judge me for it. Perhaps the biggest perk is that I am able to maintain a sink totally clean of dirty dishes, and it hits me like a puff of fresh air every time I see it.
During the day, I walk around the house in the same oversized flannel, baggy jeans, grandma sweater, and robe, even if I’ve been out and about in my big girl clothes earlier on. The minute I’m done with work or errands and I’m in for the day, on goes the flannel, and nobody’s around to say a word to me about it. Well, except for that one time my landlady’s partner stopped by once to drop off some mail, and he complimented me on my very strong pajama game at 2 PM on a Wednesday. There’s also a considerable distance between my place and the neighboring houses, so whatever music, Netflix, or podcast I’m listening to can be played as loud as I like. Basically, I’m living the dream.
However, each of these benefits starts to lose its sheen in step with the setting sun. With daylight coming in the windows, whether it be direct rays or more of a muted, cloudy glow, I can go on farting around in my flannel and have myself a grand old time. As soon as it gets dark, though, this old house starts making all these noises that I swear don’t exist in the daytime, and I suddenly can’t stop glancing at that one porcelain mime doll on the shelf. Cranking up the volume of whatever media I’m consuming at the time usually serves to distract me well enough, but then I have to turn it all off to sleep, and so the house’s various creaks and groans come back out to play. I’m usually the type to pass out the minute my head hits the pillow, but lately I’ve been doing a fair amount of sheep-counting. I’ve already said quite a bit about homesickness, so I won’t be adding more fuel to that fire, but, as you can imagine, that particular beast does make the situation worse when it rears its ugly head.
Also, as can probably be deduced from all that business with the flannel, the fewer people I interact with over a given period, the more I degenerate into a complete garbage human. The kitchen stays clean, but my bedroom certainly doesn’t, and I cannot remember the last time I swept anything at all. At the end of my days off, which are plentiful in this program, I’ll often realize that my only human interaction has been through the 6 episodes of Gilmore Girls I’ve had playing all day. Lately I’ve even been hiding when people knock or ring the doorbell. The excuse I give myself is that I’m not properly dressed to answer, but it’s really more of a fear of interacting with strangers, especially French ones.
At 23, I’ve become a cat lady without the cats. Turns out it was in me all along. Maybe that’s just the cost of living alone in a big, old house, but you know what? I think I’m cool with it. Send me five cats, and I’ll just lean in. At least my kitchen’s clean.