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  • I woke up in my apartment this morning, surprised to be there, and alone. There was that moment filled with flashes - a friend bringing out another bottle of wine, good conversation, easy laughter, my misinterpretation of an innocent comment, my boyfriend standing outside my car window saying "so, what? You're done with me now? Are you going to just leave?"

    I lay in bed, hand on my forehead, and thought "I don't know what to do with myself."

    I got up to make tea and began to notice all of the things I notice after five days spent at Paul's house. The milk gone mostly sour, a layer of dust on the bookshelf. The Christmas tree desperate for water. Inside the countertop compost bucket, a grey cloud of mold reaching all the way to the lid. It is cold, my slippers are right where I left them last Wednesday morning when I left the house to drop the kids off at school. Since then I'd only been to my home once, to pick up my dirty laundry, which I then cleaned and folded at Paul's house while we talked about how we should have more dinner parties. Once a week would be fun, he thinks.

    My son's beans have sprouted on the windowsill, growing a full 4 inches since I last watered them, five days ago. I wonder if they'll die once we transfer them outside.

    I realize, again, that because I spent my kid-free five days away, I never went to the grocery store. I have to get ready for work, so when I have the actual time to shop, I'll have the kids again, and it will already be time for dinner. They don't know that I spend the five days they are with their father almost entirely out of the apartment. They don't notice that the covers on all of our beds are in the exact state of rumple they were left in when we hustled out of the house last Wednesday morning.

    Without the fast but furious argument last night, I would have spent the night with Paul. Our last night in a string of five, our favorite time. Things get easier the more time we spend together. We would have slept, me rolling toward and then away from him, over and over, all night long.

    I wouldn't have been at my apartment again until six o'clock tonight. It would have been dark, the kids would have been hungry, I wouldn't have seen as much. I would have turned on the tree, forgetting to water it in my hurry to start cooking, pasta again. These things will all still happen in a handful of hours. The difference is that this morning, I saw things in a new light.

    I finally saw that when I spend half of my time away, no place I sleep really feels like Home. Even though I pay the rent. Even though my pictures are on the wall and my socks are in the top drawer. Even though I spend the next five days holding the singular goal of making it feel that way for my kids.

    It took me a while to get here.
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