The light from windows reaches hallways through half-opened classroom doors. The shadowy inner spaces of the school seem sad. A school the day after a summer holiday is as empty as a place can ever be. The skeleton part-time staff of July is at home enjoying a long weekend. The arts camp that uses the building and grounds for a few weeks is closed down, too.
When I first got there yesterday, hauling a lamp and some picture frames, a desk calendar and other supplies into the building from out of the blistering sun-baked car, a young colleague was sitting in her classroom writing a grad school paper. But then she left.
Alone is being in a place where people are supposed to be, but aren’t. Alone is also starting a new job in the same place I spent my career doing something else altogether. A new job as unfamiliar as the hallways, classrooms and libraries are familiar. I go to work, and sit at my desk, inventing myself in a new image. Bravely being new again. Again.
I have reinvented myself so many times in the last 12 months that I wonder anyone can recognize me.
Maybe that’s what alone is. The fear of being by myself in a world that can’t see me because I am simply unrecognizable. “Who is she? I thought I knew her….”
The limbo of summer meets the limbo of newness and the limbo of solitude. And something else to consider, I tell myself. I am living in someone else’s home again. Again. With someone else’s skillets and someone else’s pets.
I miss my skillets and I miss my pets. I wonder how I manage to get myself into these situations. These new-old situations. This new-old version of me. Instead of counting the minutes until I can be reunited with my skillets, I am trying – I swear – to embrace all that is new as well as the aloneness and the emptiness. I see now that being the new-old me in these empty places is quite perfect, really.
Alone is good. Empty is good. The emptying out that happens now and then inside my chest cannot be filled if I am not left alone with my thoughts and my new self loving my old self, and my old self returning the favor.