The moon greets me each evening I return home. The late summer night is dark, but the moon’s light illuminates the railroad tracks that lay alongside my building. Its unblinking eye startles me with its brightness. How daring, open and unapologetic it is. I tread the ten paces to the front entrance. Though I moved in to this flat just one week ago, it is my first night here, and I have been putting bedtime off, preferring instead to staying over at a friend’s. One would think contrary, that I would tumble into my new surroundings, filled with elation at a new place, a new start, and the shedding of old things. Instead, my reptilian mind resists, and clings to the accustomed and vanished past that serves no use, because the mind cannot conceptualise the nothingness of the future. Practical matters such as the logistics of relocation, I am able to orchestrate, however, emotionally speaking, my mind is slower to digest.

Inside the flat are my items. Despite the items solidly occupying the flat’s space, they are not enough to offset the effect of the space on my psyche. Whose space is this? My toiletries are in the bathroom. My spices, cutlery, dishes and pots line cupboards and kitchen drawers. The bed looks inviting with my pillows and duvet. Coats hang in the wardrobe, like soldiers in profile, and my clothes lay sleeping in the chest of drawers. It is cosy yet, but I look in on a stranger’s house.

“Come home,” my mother says. By home, she means the United States. “Why stay in a country that is so far away, and is wet and cold most of the year?” She has a point: Why be here? As soon as that question leaves my lips, it is followed by my impudent, stubborn reply, “Why not?” The reasons for emigration are many, but in the end, the purpose remains intensely personal. I left the bosom of the States to be with my partner to start a new life. That was over three years ago. Now without that partner, my life continues, but my mother worries. I am her only child and I am five thousand and five hundred air miles away. Still, having lived outside of the States for over three years, mentally, I reside in an interstitial space. Not in sync with fellow Americans, and always slightly out of step with the British, I am haunted by feeling not quite comfortable in either place or group.

Years of prolonged state of anxiety bent my thinking, causing me to think less gratefully, and rather, focus on perceived impoverishment. Instead of understanding that my needs were not being met, I let the anxiety deceive me into believing I was inferior. My world became one gigantic ballooning worry. Now, forcing myself to take a stance of gratitude, my world suddenly shifts on its ear. My perception zooms out into wide angle, giving me a top-down point of view. I am able to breathe again.

Growing up as an only child, time alone is a constant companion. Five years of being with the same person, however, grafts certain needs. It was a struggle for me to let him in, even several years into our marriage. The only child in me was staunch, and resistant to sharing space, accepting help, compromising, and considering the needs of another. Matters were not helped by his opposite nature and way of being. Harmonious cohabitation proved a tricky and taxing matter, and I dissected it with scientific fervour. In the end, I achieved understanding and functionality, but there was neither synchronicity nor reciprocation.

I am now alone. This is the state in which my mother fears for me. She feels it is my curse, being an only child. Being alone again requires adjustment. I am here in a country that is indifferent to my presence, and to a culture that is not mine. I have barely scratched the surface here in London, and maintain a very small circle of friends, so unlike the vast network I possess in America. Am I crazy to try and live here on my own? My mind argues that our lives are not dictated, so why not just enjoy where I am currently? My life is not being threatened, and things could be a lot worse. I am here, and I feel I ought to make the very best of it.

At night, the moon is my witness. Days pass, unavoidably. I utilise my new flat, one task, activity, and chore at a time. Busses pass outside my window, picking up and dropping off passengers with regularity. The tube station is just across the road. North of me is my bank, a thirty-three metre indoor pool, and a very large supermarket. South is a shopping centre. Several parks surround me. I feel happily buttressed.

What am I like on my own? Long swims at the pool punctuate my existence. So do leisurely walks to the grocers, and delighting in cooking and sampling of new recipes. I tend to start one too many books, flitting among the stack like a hummingbird. No matter what, I write. Patterns: I am one big pattern. Some people count on family, religion, or traditions in their life. This only child counts on her patterns. Time passes but this pattern continues, in a different time zone, culture, and country.

I counted my blessings today as I swam laps in the pool. I thanked the things in my life that nourished me as I cut through the water: my parents, my friends, the sunshine, the meditative nature of swim practice, my grateful clients, my chosen profession as a Thai Yoga massage practitioner, the food that I cook from scratch, the books that I read, the business associates that I keep meeting. After the swim, I explored a Greek-owned grocery shop, discovering new foodstuffs, and indulging in a three honeyed sticks of baklava. The soles of my shoes slapped against the pavement as I strolled down the hill towards my flat, my face lit up in goofy grin.

That night, the moon acts as my dutiful reminder. Now, I too must be as daring, open, and unapologetic about my own existence.

Erica, 34, London UK

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