Back in college, I had a small one-bedroom apartment all to myself on the ground floor of a multi-building complex. The location was great. The complex stood at the end of a rural street seldom visited by cars, nestled in the woods near a large pond. Tributary streams snaked around the complex, and the soothing sound of flowing water could be heard from every building. It somehow cost a lot less than living in a dorm, so it wasn’t hard to persuade my parents to co-sign my lease. (State law said my landlord needed their signature, although I would be paying for the place with my own money.) The apartment’s main benefit was that I could stay in town after classes ended for the summer, and enjoy the freedom from my parents’ gazes that I’d been craving all throughout high school — a benefit well worth the part-time jobs I had to take during weekends and holidays to pay for my living arrangements.
Even so, the apartment had its fair share of drawbacks. Nobody had told me how lonely a one-person apartment can feel, especially once the semester ends and all your friends move away for the season. It’s right in the name, if you think about it: apart-ment; a state of being separate from everybody else. But I hadn’t put much thought into it before, not until all the early mornings and late nights I would spend by myself after I’d finished with work or homework, finding nothing to distract me from my own isolation. For a perpetually single person like me, those hit pretty hard. Also, I had no idea how much heat an apartment can build up, particularly during the summer months. I bought a thermometer to test it, and even at night, with all of my windows open as wide as they could go, and a fan running to help the ventilation, the temperature hovered around or above a scorching 85 degrees.
I didn’t mind the heat per se, but it kept me from falling asleep at night. Now, insomnia itself isn’t so bad if you like spending time wandering through your own thoughts. But I didn’t. Not at all. I could only think of how alone I felt. Of how tired I was, and how little sleep I’d manage before the morning. Of how tomorrow would bring more of the same — the loneliness, the fatigue, the promise of more in the nights to come. And those kinds of thoughts kept me awake even later. It made for a pretty vicious feedback loop, and I couldn’t come up with a way to break it.
I had thought that would be the worst part of the summer I spent out there.
I wish it had been.
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