My friend Shay was visiting. Her partner died a couple of months after Andrew did. It wasn't such a long relationship as ours, but every bit as close and loving. When I first asked, after our bereavements, what it was like for her, she said, "I've lost my best friend."
Now, like me, she lives alone. Close friends ourselves for two decades, we are the people we can talk to about our parallel journeys.
On this visit, she said how strange it felt, having no-one else inside her head. I knew exactly what she meant. Quite recently I was driving along in my car when I suddenly thought, "Here I am!" with a sense of being wholly myself, undivided, undiluted. A recognition … and the recognition that it was a new experience.
In the past, neither Shay nor I lived much alone. We had marriages, we raised families. Before that we were in our birth families with parents and siblings; then we were young women out in the world, sharing houses with others.
"You know what I mean," she said. "How there's always someone else in your head, and you do things partly with them in mind?" Yes, I knew. I think it's probably the commonest human condition, and only in its absence does one discover it.
We agreed we both miss that past companionship, but we're savouring this new experience of self-containment, indeed self-discovery, and don't want to interrupt it too soon.
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