Tom left for Washington D.C. on June 15th for six days. It was our first time apart since the pandemic shutdown. We’d gotten used to being together, working at home, and sleeping together every night. But it was time for Tom to go and he was excited (actually ecstatic) to be launching a new film project, a collaboration with two social activist, singer-songwriters, Pat Humphries and Sandy O. Their duo is called Emma’s Revolution and they had been invited to perform during the annual Poor People’s Campaign.
I was looking forward to solitude and quiet. Time to reflect and re-center after the long haul of COVID. I had also invited a gathering of beloved women elders to share in a blessing ritual before I sent my memoir out into the world, and scheduled appointments at four bookstores in the Tri-county.
PART 1 – LOCKED OUT
I left before Tom because I had a full day of therapy sessions with clients. When I got home and unlocked the front door the stillness was palpable. I changed into a long cotton shift and wandered outside. A slight wind carried residual heat from the day. I prepared a simple meal, poured a glass of wine, and enjoyed dinner on the patio, breathing in the softness of the evening and listening to the call of a mourning dove in the distance. Sleeping alone was strange, but I stacked pillows on Tom’s side of the bed so it didn’t seem so empty and read until I drifted off
The next day was a similar solo routine. I was content to be alone and at the same time missed Tom, especially at night, kinda like a kid who was trying not to be scared of the dark. When I drove up the long drive to our house after work, I registered that the only one home was me. While I welcomed the quiet, I missed his hug and the good smells of dinner cooking over the sound of voices on NPR.
As the sun began to set, I locked all the doors that open to the outside in our straw bale house. There are ten of them, all French doors. Only the front door is solid oak. Though I always do this, it felt even more important being alone. I planned to just curl up and read, but the hot tub beckoned, so I threw off my clothes, stepped into flip flops, and went out for a soak. The night air was barely cooler than the water, but it was luxurious to immerse in the liquid warmth. After twenty minutes I was relaxed enough for sleep. By the time I got to the bedroom door I was dry. When I pushed the handle down it didn’t move. That’s weird. I thought I’d left it open. Oh fuck. Am I locked out? No way. I can’t be locked out…and then I realized the mess I was in. There’s got to be a way. I’ll check all the doors. So, I went around the house trying every door, starting with the dining room door. No luck. Then I remembered the extra set of keys that we hide in the shed. Only one key was there. I ran to the front door that looked like the gates of a fortress and tried the lock. Yes! But the deadbolt was locked and I didn’t have the key. Now what?
I considered my situation. Our house is in the middle of 20 acres, so the fact that I was wearing nothing but flipflops wasn’t a problem. But my cell phone was in the house, and I could hardly walk naked down Appaloosa Way to the nearest neighbor and ask for help. I had no shelter but a tin roof shed filled with hoes, rakes, shovels, nests of field mice and black widows. My problem suddenly seemed serious.
Looking for an open window,I circled the house again. Every single window was closed and locked against the heat outside, except one in my welding studio. I ran to the shed to get the hand axe to pry the screen off and looked inside. A work table sat just below the window and it was low enough that I didn’t need a ladder. A life-size plastic skeleton I named “Lucy” lounged in one corner, wearing my plasma-cutting hat and goggles, looking at me as if to say “What took you so long?” I gingerly put one leg over the window ledge until I got a footing and hefted my body through the opening, bringing the other leg over until I was able to squat on the table and leap onto the floor. Luckily, I had not locked the door into our bedroom. I collapsed on the bed, laughing at the absurdity of what had just happened. I abruptly stopped. Now that I was safe, a childlike feeling of vulnerability surfaced, as well as a sense of pride that I had found a way to bring us home.