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Microwave dinners with a side of neglect

There are sometimes very specific parts of my childhood that I tend to relive. At a surface level, they seem harmless. So it’s a little confusing why my brain decides to keep certain details and erase everything else. But sometimes, these meaningless details start to paint a bigger picture.

After-school at home was the best part of my childhood. My mother taught me early on what my routine should look like once I got home, since she would still be at work and there was nobody else to look after me. First, I would have to shower. Then I had to open a can of food for Romeo, our fat Persian gray cat. After gagging from the stench of the pet food, I was to finish up any homework or assignments that were due. And then the fun begins. Inside the freezer was a plethora of microwave dinners to choose from. Steak with mashed potatoes, sweet and sour chicken with rice, and my favorite: lasagna. My mom had taught me exactly how to prepare the food. “Don’t forget to get a fork and stab holes all over the plastic film before you put it in the microwave, that way the whole meal gets cooked properly”, she’d warn me. Once the microwave would sound off, I’d sit down on the carpet with my dinner and turn on the TV. My mom had installed a satellite receiver so that we could have access to international channels from Russia and Armenia, which meant that I could either watch cartoons in German or Italian. Of course there was also Cartoon Network, which I begged my mom to pay for since it was a premium channel, but she thought watching foreign channels might help me pick up a new language. So I did what any child would do in such a scenario, I would explore every single one of the 2,000 channels we had access to every day, and oh boy were some of them inappropriate. At this point if my mom wasn’t back home from work yet, I would also turn on her PC to play a little bit of 3D pinball. I was very proud to have found this game on the computer, as I didn’t quite get the hang of the “World Wide Web” yet. Once I was all tired out, I would go to sleep.

You might read this regimen of mine and feel a tinge of sadness, but the truth is that I loved being alone. There was nobody watching my every move, nobody I had to put in extra effort into conversing with, and I could do whatever the hell I wanted with my time. Of course most days I behaved, but as I got older there were things I was more tempted to do. I would go to my friend’s house, visit an Internet cafe, or sit on the roof of my building. I was having my very own adventure every day after school, and it was exhilarating.

Year after year I dreamt to be truly alone. To move out and have my own apartment, so that I could finally be my true self. And in a twisted way, my wish was granted. After my mom passed I did eventually find myself on my own. And it was fantastic. I could choose exactly what furniture I wanted, where I wanted to go, and what time I wanted to come back home (or if I wanted to come back at all!). What a marvelous thing it was, to be truly independent. Things only seemed to be improving when I met someone I fell in love with. Cooking a meal for one soon turned into two, as we shared sweet moments in my quaint little apartment. Things I was normally accustomed to doing alone were now being done in a partnership: renewing car insurance, grocery shopping, and doctor visits. It was unusual to say the least, but I felt happy…until I was not.

The problem lied when my loved one would leave me alone. For the very first time in my life, I felt…alone. Abandoned. Unwanted. Forgotten. But how could this possibly be, when I spent my entire childhood this way? It must be something else, because I loved being alone. I loved my independence, I loved spending time with myself, and I loved the peace and quiet. Yes.. especially that last part. The peace and quiet, it was fantastic. When I was alone, I did not have to hear my grandma screaming at my mom for falling pregnant with me. When I was alone, I was not being beaten because I got an 8/10 on my algebra test. When I was alone, I didn’t have to iron everyone’s clothes as an after-school activity

Yes, sometimes my brain holds onto meaningless details. But it is only now I come to the realization that I was clinging onto the good memories, to forget the rest. So hello to you reader. My name is Diana, and I actually don’t like being alone. I also enjoy microwave lasagnas.

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