In a very long marriage, in a totally familiar place, I’m suddenly in a totally unfamiliar context. I am alone in a king-size bed without my king.
My husband has packed a suitcase – and he will forget nothing because he is a superb planner and packer. He has explained various "house systems" to me because he knows I’m not at all proficient in things like fuse boxes and thermostats. Our duet harmonizes because he is proficient in those many things.
And he has gone off to an overnight professional conference looking forward to reclaiming his connection with colleagues and some arcane subject that interests him.
I remind him to make sure he has his cellphone – and to drive carefully.
And then I settle in to seize the moment.
I adore my husband, and love his company. But I also recognize that sometimes, time alone is like a fresh breeze.
So I do something I’d never be doing at 5 p.m. on a weekday.
I slip into my most enchanting T-shirt. I slather stuff all over my face and neck for a home facial.
Then I dive into a bowl of mushy mocha-fudge ice cream I’ve carried into our bedroom with me. I’ve decided that on this night, it’s a reasonable food group.
I heap the unread papers by my side, rip out any item that strikes my fancy, then toss the remains on the floor. And in a final act of wanton willfulness, I play both the TV and the radio at once!
Yes, I’m alone. But not a bit lonely.
It’s definitely weird, this mini-vacation from holy matrimony in a house that is temporarily occupied by one.
It is a chance to cop out on companionship, compromise and a shared bathroom, and to become splendidly self-indulgent.
Marriage, magnificent as it is, denies me the luxury of humming my own special rendition of Puff The Magic Dragon off-key (which makes him wince) and turning up The View (which makes him mutter).
From a house-sharing point of view, marriage demands that I compromise on my penchant for amiable clutter (he’s a minimalist) and that he yield on my fantasy of a pale pinkish-peach master bedroom.
Togetherness has taught me that a steamy bathroom mirror is better, alas, than none; that closing closet doors is a moral imperative to one of us – and I’m not the one – and that morning people (him) and night people (me) can ultimately learn to coexist in the glow of the afternoon!
When I want to take a three-hour nap, eat Tortilla Chips for dinner and listen to Barry Manilow five times in a row, he is a gentle reminder I share my life with somebody who barely tolerates Manilow, and believes in real food.
When he wants to look at the gleaming new cars in a showroom or see a movie I think is dumb, I am there to remind him of his marriage vows.
Yes, marriage makes demands – relentlessly.
So time alone in this house allows me to have our top sheet tucked in (my habit) rather than kicked loose (his).
Tonight, there is just a mindless fashion magazine and mocha-fudge gluttony.
Tonight, the toothpaste has been squeezed from the top, and – heaven help me – left uncapped.
But tomorrow – tomorrow he will come home, and this honeymoon for one will be over.
Tomorrow, I will hear his familiar footsteps at the kitchen door, and his breathlessly romantic question, "What’s for dinner?" as he scans the mail before he scans me.
I’ll be overjoyed to see him.
Maybe it’s because familiarity sometimes breeds content.
Maybe it’s more because he’s my dream-sharer, my favorite roommate and the person who makes a peanut butter-and-jelly life taste like caviar.
Whatever it is, I’ll take it.
Because honeymoons – and houses for one – can get awfully lonely. ••