BY NATASHA ROCCI
There’s no need to keep my mattress clear or save a small corner for me to curl up in. It’s not surprising to find a plethora of items under pillows, lost in blankets, kicked to the foot of the bed, etcetera. Headphones wrapped around themselves like serpents in a pit, papers crinkled from sleeping on them, a graveyard of empty cigarette packs and notebooks shoved accidentally in the pillowcases, have become my new bedmates. Before, I was meticulous about keeping the bed free; two people and a cat or three is the maximum capacity for a mattress. But, being alone after years of cohabitation changes you, it has strange effects on a person’s day-to-day life, most notably in regards to their sleeping habits.
I used to sleep very close to the middle of the bed, very close to what was not my side. A ‘bed hog’, I naturally gravitated to the other body on the mattress, slowly but surely claiming more and more territory in my slumbering conquest of the domain. Now I have become accustomed to sleeping against the wall, taking up a fraction of the area I used to. Space stretched out beside me like an uncharted ocean, depths and curves of blankets and sheets were less inviting than they previously were, during a time where a little extra space was always welcome.
Slowly, this empty space began to fill linearly with the filling of my empty time. I stayed busy, as much as I could, because idle time was consequently dangerous time. New habits formed as time continued to crawl forward, such as dumping my things on some of that empty space and only putting away half of it before I was exhausted and needed to sleep for the night. I would wake up to find lighters stuck to my face, pens and highlighters digging into my arms, rouge socks lost in the middle of the night floating around by my calves to collect with the cat toys and a hairbrush. Somehow, it became more comforting than having another body to gravitate to in the middle of the night.
I realized one day, after briefly waking up during the earliest hours of the morning, that I was learning how to be alone. All of these things I’ve surrounded myself with to fill up that empty space were actually working to fill up something missing in myself. It was difficult to swallow at first, because part of me didn’t want to understand this. A natural aversion to change made me crave what was, and fear what I became. The hope that I would get over it eventually, that living alone would be alright and I could manage it reasonably well, meant that I didn’t need to cling so tightly to the past anymore. Still, over time and at some point unbeknownst to me, I was accepting it. I became less apprehensive about living alone. I forgot what existing like this felt like, after years of having that body next to me.
Only when I slept without being surrounded by another person, or next to that empty space they left in their wake, allowing it to encompass in my own life, did I begin to feel comfortable in my own skin again.
Moving on takes a bravery that will only come to you when you aren’t paying attention to it. You can’t force it, and I can’t imagine someone actively seeking it and having it work out nice and neatly. I would ask that question a lot some odd months ago; “when will I feel better” or “when will I stop looking for them” and I always received an unsatisfactory answer. But, it was true nonetheless. It happens when it happens and there is a high probability of not being able to see it coming. You just have to wake up one day with a leg slung over your laptop and the other one unable to move because an old sweater is wrapped around it and think, “this isn’t so bad”, in order to find yourself healing.