Home Alone8:56 PM
also known as
H O W I A L M O S T M U R D E R E D T H E C A T
W H Y I ' L L B E E A T I N G F R I E D C H I C K E N A T M I D N I G H T
This is a story worth reading. A story of bravery, of imminent danger, and of the ever-present conflict of introversion and extroversion.
I swore off the family vacation this year. A working girl now. Can't take off a week or so for family shenanigans in Texas. That seemed like a logical, responsible position to take. And I was fine and unemotional until I realized that this might be the last family vacation I ever take because I'm twenty now and will be graduated and maybe married sooner-than-later (the current timestamp of all my lifelong dreams and fears).
I prepped for the dreaded week alone maturely. My college roomie, a hardened introvert (yes, I say hardened, for what other kind of soul can withstand lack of familial socialization for extended periods of time?) -- anyway, she assured me that staying alone is fun. It involves marathoning apocalyptic television shows and writing and the ability to think and quiet. I told her I didn't watch television by myself.
The only fun thing about staying home alone for me was the scientific aspect of it -- could a Bailey really survive home alone on her own budget, her own inferior homemaking skills, and her own atrocious lack of order? Because I always wondered if I could give up my homebodiness and live in a New York studio apartment chasing my thirteen-year-old dream of big-time writer. Which would involve incredible loneliness (who makes friends in NYC?) and cats to cure said loneliness and cooping myself up in small spaces hammering out Word document after Word document. Oh, and eating ramen. Or a more expensive New York version of ramen.
Actually, I probably wouldn't eat anything due to depression and a hatred of cooking and of eating. I always altered such gloomy visions with the presence of one of my Southern college girlfriends who love cooking muffins and chicken for me.
This week, however, there would be no Southern college friends. In fact there would be only me. And the cat. Though to be honest, I thought very little of the cat until I spent a week alone with him. We were estranged due to lack of interest.
I made a budget. A budget of $25 (because when calculating the financial sustainability of marrying in college, I discovered that a weekly budget of $50 is sufficient for weekly meals). Then I spent an hour pouring over the internet in search of small meals for one person that didn't involve Dijon mustard. I blindly altered recipes (what the heck is arugula?), committed the ingredients to a twice-written list, and prepped my Walgreens coupons. I bribed my two youngest siblings with candy if they shopped with me. Because clearly, preparing for a week and a life alone involves fraternizing with persons aged in the single digits.
I learned great lessons that day. I learned that even though Walgreens offers Kraft mac and cheese at 79 cents a box, I should buy the regularly-priced Great Value mac and cheese at 69 cents a box. Just because you have a coupon doesn't mean you're saving. Feeling betrayed, I came home and texted my boyfriend to find another potential wife. I could not feed him.
It was a gloomy start to a harrowing week.
The Week Itself
I woke up at 5:30 am with the departing Bergmanns. They drove to a hotel somewhere-in-Missouri, I drove to my boyfriend's family's house and went to the zoo. The lady peafowl were unimpressed by the desperate peacocks. And my boyfriend bought me a handful of feed for the goats. . .which he himself refused to touch. He insisted he'd done this a million times as a kid. I secretly knew he was actually scared of them and loved him all the more for such inner fragility.
After getting lost in the dead of night somewhere in a city and going against traffic due to a rogue roundabout, I made it safely home. Safely. . .if one could consider a dark, empty house safe. Or a home. I put out the garbage can because if I didn't, the consequences would be a huge overflowing mountain of trash. I didn't put out the recycling because that required going back down the long, dark driveway again. And no way was I going to do that. I watered all the porch flowers because the consequences would be a sobbing mother and pots and pots full of brittle, dead plants. I didn't water the hanging baskets because it was dark outside and I was alone and couldn't stand it another minute.
I opened the front door and a huge spider on a huge spiderweb dropped in front of me. Yes. Well, welcome home to you too.
My dad left the back garage door unlocked. Which meant of course that an intruder was hiding out in the inky black basement fast asleep on the couch and that my every movement woke him and that every noise moved me. I bitterly wished for a bedroom door lock and texted my boyfriend other such cowardly things until he finally fell asleep because it was late and I really was safe.
Or so he thought.
I didn't give up my fear of intruders until the morning revealed all corners of the house. By the way, the cat was gone, probably forever, since he slipped out of the house when everyone left for the weekend.
I worked all day and came home to make fried chicken for my friend and me -- my first meal by myself, my first attempt at hospitality. I even traveled to Walmart and bought freshly-baked French bread (for a dollar), because who serves her friend only fried chicken and potato salad for dinner? I resisted the cupcakes. They were not a dollar.
Long story short, I neglected to read the recipe and so came home at six o'clock only to find that I needed to chill the chicken for two hours before frying and who on earth makes her guest wait until nine pm to eat dinner? I made the bean salad with Tiger (who did come back of course -- who told you otherwise?). That threw off my entire meal schedule for the week. I got a picture, anyway: at least momentarily, I was a happy homemaker, proud cat owner, and hospitable host to a beautiful friend.
Then I got sick. Sick enough to make work miserable, sick enough to leave laundry sitting in a basket unfolded for literally a week, sick enough to abandon the botched meal schedule entirely and substitute homemaking for intensive sleeping. I ate Life cereal and drank Emergen-C. And ate bean leftovers.
The chicken at this point was going to go all salmonella or whatever, so I froze it. This is an important note.
The cat also got sick. Sick of being alone and, well, sick too. While I feverishly tossed in my bed and rued the long distance from family and boyfriend, the cat kept me up all night sneezing every three seconds. I heartlessly threw him out after untangling the moral dilemma of whether a human's good night of rest came above making a dumb creature feel loved.
The next night, I dipped Ruffles in Ranch dressing and watched a movie (alone -- I who never watches things alone). The cat tried to eat my Ranch dressing. Multiple times. I tossed him away the same number of times. He followed me into my room and licked the Ranch dressing bottle. He licked the Kleenex I used to wipe off the Ranch dressing bottle. He licked me. He stepped on my computer. He stepped on me. I batted him around and out the room in a rage of squeaky sick girl anger. Then I let him in again because he howled and scratched at my door. Then I kicked him out for the same offenses and ignored him for the rest of the week. . .which was admittedly impossible to do because every waking moment in my house meant him mewing at me, snuggling with me, licking me, loving me. My hatred rose at every attempt.
I'm not a cat person.
The final straw came today, as I waited for my family to get back. I got home from work, let the howling animal into the house, threw him off my bed ten times (yes, it seems heartless, but he's impossibly annoying), threw him off my lap ten times, threw him off my laptop ten times. And he deleted an entire file of all my favorite photos. And he wouldn't stop howling and licking me. Ew.
And you know that chicken? I thought to myself, "Oh, I'll come home at 4:30, chill the chicken for two hours, and make fried chicken at the normal dinnertime."
Except it was frozen.
So I learned how to unsafely thaw frozen chicken via wikihow and will be eating fried chicken tonight. . .with really old buttermilk that expired on the day I got sick.
No, I don't plan on living alone until, say, never. At least not with a cat.