My husband walked through the door. Dinner simmered on the stove. Children wailed and argued from the other room.
I stirred the cooking rice and chicken on the stovetop once more. I folded the dishrag into a neat pile by the sink. And I calmly told my husband that I needed to leave.
I laid out pajamas on the coffee table, a set for each child. I scooped dinner out into three different bowls, made three different cups of water.
I grabbed my purse and my keys, blew kisses and closed the door. I contained myself from doing a mad sprint to the car.
I stopped at the supermarket on the way into town to choose a magazine to read while I ate my dinner.
I looked at all of the glossy, colorful magazine covers lining the shelves. Smiling, air-brushed, and seemingly well-rested faces looked back at me. Bidding me to try the sex moves that would change my life and discover the fall fashion or makeup palette to ring in the new season. To try the fat busting moves that would bring forth the abs of steel that my life has been missing – speaking of which, does anyone else notice how magazines that champion for you to get into the “greatest shape of your life!!!11!” never use entertainers who have had three or four kids as their cover models? Get three people cut out of your abdomen, and spend eleven months feeding them from your body while they grind your nipples up like beef in a meat mincer, sister, and then we’ll talk about how you “manage” to keep yourself in shape.
I grabbed the one with the least annoying celebrity on the cover (Zooey Deschanel, you win this time), and paid for it.
I reached the sushi restaurant, hoping to the gods of dining-in that on a Thursday evening at seven p.m., they would have space for me. Not the sushi bar. Not a freestanding table. A BOOTH. Go big or go home.
The young lady behind the counter looked confused for a moment, her eyes quickly wandering to glance over my shoulder at the no-one coming in the door behind me. Yes, just me, I chirped. Party of one like whoa.
She asked if I wanted just a sushi menu, and guided me to my table, my nest of respite for the next forty minutes. She still seemed unsure as she slipped the menu across the table to me. She pointed out where the pens were to mark my choices on the menu, and informed me that there were more options on the back.
I’ve been to this place more than a dozen times.
I sat down in my seat, and looked up only for a brief moment at the no-one across from me. Then I affixed my attention to the menu until my waitress appeared.
She offered me a drink, and as I ordered, I asked if the restaurant still gave out complimentary salad and soup. When she asked which one I wanted, I told her both, because that really is the only option.
I handed her my menu, and she seemed surprised that I was ready so quickly. But such is the luxury of only ordering for one. I could tell you what I’d order at almost any place in town in a snap because I spend my days eating cereal for lunch while dreaming of food that I don’t have to make myself.
As she retreated to fetch my drink, I began to peel through the magazine pages. Such colors. So many young women with bright eyes, no bags or circles. And so much jumping in the air and wind tussled hair all for the sake of tampon advertisements.
I felt so silly.
The waitress returned with my drink, and looked confused by my magazine. I told her thanks, and returned to reading.
Such began this majestic dance for the remainder of the evening; the waitress remaining polite and efficient, but also seemed unsure of what to do with the lady with no makeup on, in a booth by herself, shoving food into her mouth like it was going out of style, reading from the pages of a Cosmo magazine that was clearly meant for people ten years younger than her.
I silently remembered how I would have never, ever gone to dinner by myself in a sit down restaurant before I had children. And even after.
Escaping for an evening from the house used to mean that I needed to have a friend waiting for me somewhere. I needed a plan.
Now, escape just means escape. And sometimes, you might have the chance to arrange for all of that socializing stuff, while other times you simply don’t.
You grab what you can and run from the house like it’s actually on fire, when really, it’s full of sick children, dogs who chew everyone’s shoes and a mound of laundry larger than the Eiffel Tower.
You leave everything behind, and get the hell out while you can and you don’t stop to ask such frivolous questions like, “who am I even going to hang out with??”.
You do what needs to be done to survive.
I am to the point in my life where sitting alone in a booth, stuffing salad with ginger dressing in my mouth while my phone is set on silent, with magazine siting open in front of me sounds like just as much of an accomplishment as a night spent out in the town with five of my closest friends.
Mothers become this paradox after they spend years raising their brood.
We feel alone even when surrounded by an army of tiny people who never give us a moment’s peace. And, sometimes, when we actually are alone, we feel complete.
I had a date with myself the other night.
I got to know myself a bit more.
There isn’t always a chance for that when spouses and children and mutt dogs come into the picture. Not often since the walls of my home started to feel like they were going to burst apart at the seams, and since children started chasing me down to remind me every fifty-three seconds about the book fair at school this week.
It’s easy to see why the chance to continue your relationship with yourself is the first thing to go. It’s the most negotiable, the easiest to suppress. You learn to tell yourself no more than you tell your children no.
Which is why, sometimes, you need to take yourself on a date.
And the good thing about yourself is that you’re comfortable with pauses and brief silences in the conversation. You’re okay to rest that internal monologue of all of the things you have to do in a bid for sweet silence. You just ply yourself with rolls of sushi and Pepsi until you’re ready to talk again.
Myself and I laughed and laughed at the pages of that magazine. How nineteen year old me would have hung on every word about how to give him the night of his life. I would have perused every shelf in the cosmetics section at Wal-Mart, looking for the perfect fall blush to match my skin tone.
I don’t even know where I put that magazine after I got home. But I did return to one child throwing up, and the dog working her way through the heel of my shoe.
It was brief, so very brief. But I had a great time.
I’m thinking we might have to do this again.