We are leaving a wedding, driving down deserted Maine interstates, watching the way the trees pummel across the outer reaches of the high beams. We talk the way you talk in a dark car on a long drive at the end of an emotional day, where no topic is out of reach and no sidebar is too long tangential.
We talk about this woman, our friend, who is even now alone with her husband in their house, a different kind of dark. We talk about our own histories, loves, losses, the things we thought we learned already. We talk so much I forget about the bag of Swedish fish in my purse, tucked away for a mid-ride surprise.
I say something about being single, and she makes a noise, something akin to a harrumph. “My husband says you’re never really single,” she says, “unmarried, maybe, but never single,” and even as we keep talking my mind stretches and curls around that idea like a cat. I don’t remember where our conversation went to from there—forty-eight hours gone, but the emotions of the day had swamped my brain with saline leaving little room for anything else.
Anything else but this: that no one is ever single.
I have my blood family—relations from Vermont to St. Louis to Oregon—who remind me of where I come from and where we are going, who pass names and genes and character on to a new generation of towheads and tomboys who will play Princess and Pioneers, who will have loves and losses and lessons of their own. After months away, I come home into a strange sort of peace—not sliding into a glove, exactly, but stepping into my mother’s kitchen, which is a thousand times better. Come Christmas, there will be too much food to eat and a surfeit of wrapping paper in every corner, but I will be my own self in a way I am nowhere else.
I have my local family here—the nieces and nephews who have lost the quotation marks I used to put around them, the marriage I casually study and hope one day to mirror, the faith and trust and welcome of tested and proved belief. On their couch, at their kitchen table, I find the warmth and breadth of people who have seen every angle of your crazy and love you without reservation, not in spite of it but because of it. People who accept every stumble and mistake, but also lift you to the next challenge, the next lesson.
I have my gaggle (no better word) of girlfriends—some married and others not—who laugh and cry and watch silly movies with me. Some prod me toward what might make me uncomfortable, some secure me, some let me speak into their lives as they speak into mine. Some teach me dance moves, or perch by my stove to watch how onions and water and spices transform into velvety soup. Some just sit with me, in coffee shops or dark cars, and share life in a thousand words.
I have relatives, churchgoers, neighbors, Facebook friends. I have coworkers, cowriters, cojourners—and those that cheer me on from the sidelines. Adam is right—even in the instant, sitting next to Sara barreling down 295, I know he is. I’m many things, but single isn’t one of them.