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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Despondent 


Saturday, May 21, 2005

My roommate has left and won't be back for eight months. As if to emphasize the huge gaping void left behind, the skies ripped open to pour an ocean on us. I couldn't let this perfectly gothic incident go unheeded, so I matched it.

I was the mute companion over dinner. I watched the other patrons. Lonely middle-aged people sitting alone. On a Saturday night, this is where they go, to a Chinese buffet for all-you-can-eat food that claims to be Chinese. One middle-aged man walked over to another table, where another middle-aged man sat alone, and made a joke. They both laughed and then the first middle-aged man went back to his table.

Only the staff members and the neighbouring table were Chinese. Everyone else was white. Most were middle-aged and the young people were their guests. At one table, two teenage boys sat with their middle-aged sugar momma and one boy smiled sweetly at this woman. At another table, were a much older couple and the lady of the pair wore a clean purple outfit with shining white socks and a white carnation brooch.

I still haven't regained my appetite. I finished off only half my plate.

The restaurant depressed me with its Blondie and Abba soundtrack, so I looked outside at the seagulls. I decided I wouldn't mind turning into a seagull as long as I gave up my human brain.

The mall closed. I had to find another place to go and be lonely among people. I went to my old haunt, Value Village. I stopped going there. I have enough stuff. Today was the first time I went this year.

Value Village on a Saturday night feels cavernous. Twenty people tops were in the store. A sour-faced man browsed through the women's jeans. A young hipster girl walked around with a floppy hat and the tag sticking down over her ear. Her boyfriend looked like a deflated Incredible Hulk but with troll hair.

To successfully shop Value Village, you need to look at every single item of clothing by sliding over hanger after hanger. When something looks promising, you put it in your basket and, once you have enough material, you try it on in the fitting rooms.

My potential sequined mauve top was too wispy. My potential electric-patterned skirt didn't emphasize my butt curves. My potential wool cardigan wasn't lying when its tag read extra small.

Once I got home I rearranged things. And I snooped. Things, however, are the least welcome substitute to her presence. Sure, I have a whole new wardrobe, a stack of forbidden CDs and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou DVD all to myself. Really, though, who watches videos alone? Who do you turn to afterwards to say it sucked? And I can listen to Jack White and stare at his picture for hours, yet I never manage to conjure him up by telepathy.

I won't obsess about my upcoming lonely Christmas right now, but I've already had to seal off some rooms. I even switched bedrooms and won't sleep in my wonderfully cosy bed for eight months. I also need to turn on all the lights and Steve Zissou is playing alone in the living room so there is a semblance of human life around, even if it is the recording of actors who don't know I am alone and very lonely in this big house.

It's good to stay busy in these circumstances. I've got stacks of little jobs that need doing around the house. The hamster cage needs a-cleaning. The recycling needs a-sorting. The laundry needs a-folding. The stories need a-reading (Jen, I haven't forgotten).

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