Decompression: A Parent's First Night Alone in Four Years
Any night that starts with Doctor Who at Alamo Drafthouse is a good night
Photo by Jef With One F
Something happened last Saturday, something that I have completely forgotten existed...I had the entire house to myself for the evening. My wife has her clinical rotation from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. in this semester of nursing school, and my sister-in-law offered to keep the kid overnight so they could go to church together in the morning.
I literally could not comprehend five hours of silence. I'm a very active husband and parent, always on call to sweep up messes, fetch foodstuffs, start the laundry and just in general hop to in whatever situation requires an energetic hopper. It's been four years since last I was by myself with no obligations.
You know those anglerfish that live way down at the bottom of the ocean? Know why you never see them in aquariums? It's because bringing something that lives under all that pressure up to the surface makes their bodies explode from the sudden lack of that pressure.
I didn't explode, but it was a strange experience nonetheless.
Hour One: When I got home, the first thing I did was shed every stitch of clothing that I had on. This wasn't just me being elated that I didn't have a four-year-old girl itching with curiosity and the desire to see a human wiener. It's also that my car has no air conditioning and it had been a long drive back from Katy and the Doctor Who screening.
I literally wrung out my shirt over the bathtub. After that, I just enjoyed feeling cold air on my skin as I put away the screwtop wine I was planning on making fast friends with later on. Then I grumbled as I put on new clothes because I did still have to take the dog to crap in the heat.
Hour Two: I'm always telling myself that I would get so much more writing done if I could just come home from the day job and not be bothered for three hours. This Saturday I proved that this is the opposite of true. Sure, I fired up the laptop and busted out a couple of little fluffy articles, but just as I found out the first time I typed "boobs" into Infoseek as a teenager, I realized that an empty house and terabytes of pornography is way too much temptation.
Of course, I guess it's also a testament to how lame I've gotten in my 30s that I got distracted by a documentary on collecting Street Fighter memorabilia. Of course, I'm not someone with an entire wall dedicated to Street Fighter so I can't be that lame... on the other hand I did look up the Chun-Li shower scene before logging off so I'm probably still pretty lame.
Not explaining it. Go play Xenoblade like I've told you a million times.
Hour Three: Part of me really wants to install Final Fantasy XIV so I can begin my series where I explore giving in and joining the world of MMORPGs and online play, but the more sensible side of me realizes that I'm not really in a place where I should be allowed to interact with other people. First of all, I've actually got a bottle open beside me on the couch to save me the walk to the kitchen to refill my wine glass, so what little personal censoring I ever have is already washed away in a red tide.
Without the necessity of keeping my voice down so as not to disturb the wife's studies or inflict psychological wounds on my daughter, I imagine no good will come of me interacting with humans. I start playing Xenoblade Chronicles instead...at FULL VOLUME! Do you hear me, people of Mechonis? IT'S REYN TIME!
Hour Four: Honestly, it's starting to feel weird and lonely in the house. You forget how much you come to define yourself by your interactions with your family. More than that, everything feels pointless. I start thinking very seriously about making some tea to sober up and try to knock out some more pay work, or maybe tackle the bones of a short story. I sort of hate the idea of my wife coming home and finding me drunk, naked and calling pixilated monsters a collection of increasingly filthy names in Dutch.
Instead I got up and made sure that there were clean towels so my wife could take a shower when she got home. Then I went and made up my daughter's bed and put toys away until that made the whole thing feel even emptier. Another drink and I started binge-watching Black Books on Neflix.
Photo by Lynda Rouner
Hour Five: My wife calls me to let me know she's on the way home, so I take the dog out, feed her, check the cats' water and food, and do the few bed chores that need doing. Wrapped up in one of my daughter's blankets, I listen to rain songs on my iPod until my wife gets home.
"Did you enjoy your night alone?" she asked.
"I don't know," I replied. "I kind of just drifted. Probably good for me, but I wouldn't want to do it too often."
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