In the center of my children’s room there is a mushroom lamp that I purchased at Acorn toy shop on Atlantic Avenue in December. The lamp is red, but when turned on at night, pale green spots speckle River and Oak’s ceiling. The pattern begins in the shape of a V, then pulls wider and lays across the ancient ceiling of our apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. By now, I think I know the exact number of spots on the ceiling. I know the way one breaks at the molding, the way the other hovers over Oak’s closet. There is one more that reflects in the mirror, and I never bother finding its true location. I am someone who is at once thrilled by the unknown and completely fearful of it.
Each night, as I cuddle both River and Oak to sleep, and as their sleep grows heavier and bodies fall limp over my own, tangling me in their small warmth, I feel something new. Aloneness. A feeling that is so foreign, I initially thought I was experiencing a small bout of depression. I wasn’t. If I had to compare, the only time I’ve felt a feeling adjacent to this was in that weird, brief, and powerful gap in time when I brought River home from the hospital during the winter of 2011. Just us on that third floor railroad apartment. No one to really talk to. So much need. But this time, unlike that time, I know no baby will wake up in two short hours to nurse at my breast, proving that that particular sense of aloneness back then was often coupled with an indescribable need. That milk on the nipple kind of need. River is now seven and a half and Oak is four, so that evening aloneness means just that. For many people, this seems no big deal. But I am 28 and met my ex-partner at 19, had a baby at 21, and spent my childhood with three brothers and one sister. I’ve never really been alone. Until now.
As I look at their ceiling and count and re-count, and fall under the meditation that it lists and the sound of the city outside: heavy wooden doors, car alarms, horns honked, and an apartment fire-alarm in the near-distance, I realize that my sense of being alone is maybe just being present with my body and my mind. Present and at risk of distractions of my own making. Present, in a way that is not dependent on ripping and running, cuddling, or holding hands with someone. A partner. A child. I can surely detangle myself out of the weight of my children’s limbs. And I do, eventually. To be alone, for the first time in nearly a decade is scary. It is uncomfortable. It is welcomed.
I have learned a few things about myself in this time. I can put off an Amazon order until it makes me cringe. I’ll find a way to mop floors, but not write an essay. I’ll plan an entire trip, but when I am alone, a simple email feels too daunting. If I focus too much on each event of the last year and a half, the feeling gets knotted deep below my chest, the tears disintegrate in my lacrimal glands. The time alone is for my body and brain to fill itself up with the most romantic, painful, and outlandish things. It is also a time when I realize the joy of therapy, so that words find their way out, and escape on a leather couch. The tears-unplugged. And oddly enough, I have found that the body feels less and less uncomfortable the more I sit with the sense of being alone. 28 and alone. And not. But mostly.
Alone doesn’t mean without, and I think it’s important to say that. My feeling of being alone is coupled with an acknowledgement of plentitude. There may be many friends, a lover, work, a boyfriend, or not. Women fear being 40, 50 and alone. 60 and alone tends to be more celebrated. I don’t know what any of that would feel like. I don’t know if I ever will. I’m not afraid if it is my path. I have made these choices. Swung the dice. It feels both scary and freeing. I’ve met a version of myself I don’t think I could have met. A version that, yes, counts that pale green speckles on the ceiling of her children’s room on a Wednesday night as the AC blows across her faded red lips. But the opportunity to feel the intimacy and the lack, the gain, in private, not in the realm of social media, of which I built my following, is also welcomed.
I addressed my past relationship and what I was doing once, under the pressure of anonymous followers who thought it was just to hound me about a missing person in my feed. I cracked under the reality that we both wanted to pursue a life of post-relationship privacy that wasn’t interrupted with assumptions inundating our afternoon walks or nights outs. My following, small and bleak in comparison to that of other bloggers, but in the wake of any public transition, mighty and loving or damaging. And so I cracked and acknowledged in a way, this new sense of aloneness. And if alone means getting to experience a sense of privacy, pain, growth, various levels of intimacy and clear work with oneself, then so be it. I’ll be 28, 40, 50 or 60 and alone. Aloneness, may it continue to be odd and wonderful, and sort of like 92 dots stretched across the ceiling of my children’s room. Pressed in corners, surprising and ridiculously peaceful.
We are so excited to say that LaTonya’s first book is being released next year! You can pre-order it here if you’re as mesmerized by her writing as we are. Take a peek inside her Brooklyn home here and follow along with her on Instagram here.