I woke up face down on the floor, my chin and arm throbbing as the dog stared at me. I’d fainted in the doorway of my bedroom, seconds after realizing the tingling in my limbs was forcing them to buckle. There was nobody around when it happened, so I’m free to imagine cartoonish scenarios. Did I tip over in a funny way? Straight like a felled tree and smashing into the bed frame? Or had I pinballed off the door jamb and into the dresser before kissing the carpet? How did the tipped-over trash can come into play?
I was bleeding, dizzy and in pain, sure, but I live alone, so I was mostly thrilled my dog hadn’t tried to eat me.
When you watch “Bridget Jones’ Diary” four or five times every winter for over a decade, drinking wine on the couch in your pajamas and eating Indian food, it’s a little difficult not to get it stuck in your head that you too will die someday, “fat and alone, and be found three weeks later, half-eaten by wild dogs.”
When you live by yourself, and like it, it’s easy to simply go about your business, merrily redecorating in eye-melting colors, inventing new and offensive hot-dish casserole recipes from whatever’s in the pantry (does tuna go with chickpeas?), and using your poncho as both Kleenex when you’re sad and, when paired with shoes and pajama shorts, sufficient outerwear for walking the dog to the mailbox.
I can say with zero hesitation that coming home to an empty house is one of the greatest joys in my life. The silence allows my head to stretch wide open, I breathe more deeply and I don’t have to wear pants if I don’t want to. And I often don’t.
But every once in awhile, cantaloupe goes down the wrong pipe. Or you drop the soap in the shower and then step on it, clawing at the curtain to right yourself. Or you realize you never reattached the smoke alarm after burning that sourdough in the broiler. (The key to oven toasting is not leaving the kitchen to go watch an episode of “Vikings.”)
Anyhow, those moments aren’t just reminders to chew your food, switch to a loofah and buy a toaster — they also serve to feed the classic fears of being a single lady living alone.
I know someone who heard his upstairs neighbor moaning. He put a head over his pillow thinking it was sex, and the next day he found out she’d fallen and died. This is the kind of story that hides in your brain, only to jump back out during that millisecond before you hit the floor after feeling dizzy in the doorway of your bedroom.
“I’m going to die right here, right now and I’m not wearing pants. Again.”
Now, the dog didn’t go for help. He didn’t grab the cellphone and mash the keypad with his paws and get connected to emergency services.
“9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”
“What’s that, boy? Is someone in trouble?”
“Your mom fell on the ground and is spilling hot cocoa all over the white bedspread?!”
“I’ll send someone over right away!”
Nope. He just sat there, staring at me.
While the world came back into focus, I watched him watch me.
“You weren’t going to eat me, right? Right?”
He just stared. I crawled up the side of the bed, fixed my chin and fed the dog immediately.
Jeanine Fritz: twitter.com/j9fritzy