It’s 6pm on a Sunday. I have only left my bed five times all day, twice to use the bathroom, three times to fetch food from the kitchen. Around 3pm my boss’s husband knocked on my door. I opened it to find him already halfway through his first round of apologies for bugging me on a day off. Then he blinked once at my red pajama bottoms and semi-combed hair and said, “How are you doing?”
“Great,” I said cheerfully.
“You don’t have to hide back here, if you don’t want,” he said, and I nodded and waved a hand for him not to worry, and he began apologizing again, but would I mind keeping an ear open while he ran to pick up some batteries? Absolutely, I said, and, leaving the door open, returned to my bed.
Yesterday I babysat for about five hours before taking the bus into Totnes to meet a stranger I’d found via Gumtree, England’s Craigslist. We chose the Barrel House for a pint of cider. Full of mismatched antique furniture, a polished bar, folksy artwork, and patrons who prefer sheeps-wool style dreds, the Barrel House hosted my last Gumtree rendevouz and seemed cozy enough to help me bear another, even if my companion proved equally uninspired.
We moved from cider to samosas at the large white hotel that fronts the high street. Over the course of four and a half hours we had covered our romantic, creative and psychological histories in such depth I wished I could wring myself out. Afterwards I met the girl I had also found via Gumtree, for another pint before the… barn dance.
We poked our heads into the town hall, where elderly folk in knee-length skirts and ironed slacks gathered along each wall, preparing for an evening that was sure to involve linking arms and dosey-do-ing, or whatever they call it this side of the Alamo. Festive an evening as it promised to be, we decided to instead try a mysterious “Barefoot Boogie” in another village. None of us were sure what to expect, but a small upstairs auditorium full of barefoot hippies, whose hair had not seen styling products in forty years, dancing to jazz and David Bowie, was not it. My only question was, “We’re not going to hear Rihanna tonight, are we?”
She drove me home while discussing with her friend, recently moved from London, their plans to start a monthly dance that did not involve either blackcurrant cordial or marijuana as the pre-event substance of choice.
I took my purse and the coloring books I’d bought in Totnes for the kids out of her boot, gave her a hug, and crept down the dark gravel lane that fronts our house’s owner’s estate. Tomorrow, I vowed, I would not get out of bed until I absolutely had to.
And I did not. This afternoon, one ear opened as promised to hollering upstairs, Gladys Knight playing from my laptop, skies the same pale bluish grey they’d been for the past four days, I reflected that I was doing exactly what I had done in Hoboken two years ago. So many months, so many miles, to find yourself still requiring absolute inactivity at least once a week.
Today it seems inevitable, but up until recently, I was defensive, even worried, about my quiet Sundays. I felt my routine lacked moderation, was too stuffed with sloth. In Hoboken, my roommate spent the weekends with her boyfriend and I would ignore my ringing phone, preferring to watch whatever bad movie the AMC channel had on, and order dinner up. In Brooklyn a year later, my Sundays were shared by Harley and Flip, one stretched out at the foot of my bed, the other hopping circles around my body. Every now and then my brother would poke his head in to make sure I was still alive, but for the most part, talking to anyone who didn’t have black and white fur seemed to require unnecessary effort.
I have always had to compensate for a native sensitivity and timidity by forcing myself to leave the house, and often, the state. Otherwise I’d spend my entire life in my room, watching bad TV and eating General Tso’s, with the occasional donut thrown in for the sake of healthy variety. I spent too many years in hiding after high school. I failed to compensate. If I hide on a Sunday now, it makes me feel guilty and worried that I’m slipping back into depression.
It may seem paradoxical to post photos taken last December, in Brooklyn, in a post written in early September, in England. They’re seedy photos, redolent of bagel BLTs, wine, and rabbi-approved roast chicken. But this is the texture of life, and I realize now that this is why I spend most Sundays in bed. If you belong to a family who celebrates Christmas in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where no other friends or relatives live, in an apartment with crusty-textured walls, because all four of you would rather experience something new then return to the spacious five-bedroom house back in Oregon, you just wind up needing to hide now and then. Compensating for timidity puts me in Spanish nightclubs and Chelsea studios; compensating equals life. Five or six days a week. On the seventh, I’m picking up the phone and calling the Red Dragon to find out what’s on special today. I could go for some orange chicken, but I’m flexible.