• Rosemary Mac Cabe

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Roughly six weeks ago, I made the decision to move in on my own. I'd always had dreams of owning my own little house or apartment, somewhere near the city centre, fully kitted out in the most eclectic of items: my coffee table, covered in old issues of Beano; the zebra foot lamp that currently resides in my aunt's house but belonged to my grandmother; a huge, cow-hide rug from Ikea and, of course, copies of intellectual books scattered around everywhere, dog-eared and well-read. The wall inside the front door will be papered in Cadbury's Roses foil wrappers, carefully flattened and pressed and then stuck to the wall in a haphazard fashion so that one surface, just one, would be shiny and multicoloured and, crucially, indicative of my love of Cadbury's. The orange and strawberry sweets would, of course, feature prominently, as a testament to how interesting and unique I am.

Of course, dreams are just that, and instead I am renting a lovely cottage on the north side of the city, with venetian blinds on the front window, a neighbour who wears a floral pant suit (serious respect) and bottle-end glasses, and a fat ginger cat who appears in the sunlight to lay himself across the path in the way of any rude, disrespectful pedestrians wishing to, you know, walk past.

When I decided to rent on my own – no longer for me, the cursory chats of an evening after work, or the thoughtfulness required by housemates, whether friends or not - my nearest and dearest were all a bit concerned. The most popular refrain was, "won't you get lonely?" The honest answer is: no, at least, not any more than I got lonely when I was living with other people. What I do get, and this will surprise people who have, in the past, watched me colour-code my wardrobe, or alphabetise my bookshelf, is dirty. I get ridiculously, inexcusably, disgustingly dirty.

Without the implied watchfulness of housemates, I leave my cereal bowls in the sink, on the table, on the couch; I make tea and forget about it and, three days later, scoop mouldy tea leaves out of the strainer and into the large plastic bag that doubles as a bin; without others to think about, I leave wrappers, empty Coke bottles and wine corks in the most unlikely of places, to be found, days later, as an unwelcome surprise beneath my bath towel.

I am now considering getting a cleaner. To iron and, you know, find my empty Coke cans. I made the mistake of expressing this thought to a colleague today, who was, to say the least, shocked. "But you're just one person!" she said. She obviously doesn't realise how thoughtless one person can get, with no one else to bear in mind.

I could tell you more of the perils and pitfalls of solitary living, but just now I have spotted what looks like the lid of my dry shampoo, beneath the magazine rack in the sitting room, beside an enormous ball of dust that I shall have to, forthwith, scoop under the couch. There's a lot of cleaning to do when you live on your own, you know.

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