“Nearly completely,” I decided aloud, moving swiftly down a dark and quiet hallway at the office this morning. I am an introvert, I acknowledged as I basked in the lack of noise and movement in the large building. The thud of my tennis shoes against the carpet was barely audible and, apart from the random curses I uttered, there was only the gentle hum of idle machines. I left the lights off - my pupils are typically dilated enough that I don't struggle to see in the dark.
I printed documents without waiting in line. I used every piece of equipment my anti-social heart desired, alternating my frowning gaze between documents and computer screen as I tested new software. I made notes and filled in blanks without anyone interrupting to ask me questions, carefully placing the date after my initials. I wrote follow-up emails, filled all the while with gratitude that other people had lives and were unlikely to answer my messages until Monday.
I smiled on my way to check my mail, passing silently by man with ears covered by headphones without, loathe to disturb his steady weekend productivity. I skirted boxes in a dimly lit room, retrieving a few letters and packages from the spot that boasted my name. I moved to the car, tugging the sleeves of my sweatshirt down from where I'd pushed them about my elbows, and steered toward the store to fetch kibble. Thoughts of nearly empty pet food canisters at home left me hefting bags into a cart and picking up a few other essentials. I shook my head over aisle of Christmas decorations and meandered through the toy department. I even liked to play alone, I recalled. Brother was always the driving force behind having friends over or creating chaos.
Loading the back of my Jeep, I moved toward home feeling mostly pleased with my morning of productivity. The dog was walked, mail was fetched, work was done and necessary items purchased. I depressed the button that hangs from my visor and waited impatiently for the garage door to open. Moving in far enough not to hit the back with the descending door but not so far as to hit the wall with my front bumper (I've done both - I have trouble judging distances), I turned the key in the ignition and withdrew it so the friendly beeping would cease. (The Jeep doesn't want me to forget my key, and refuses to listen to my reasoning that it's safer in the ignition than going inside the house to get lost.)
I looked to my right, toward the door that leads to my pretty kitchen up two shallow steps. I closed my eyes tight and wished as hard as I could that someone would emerge to greet me. He would smell good, I decided, and kiss properly. He would listen patiently to my stories, be they happy or, more likely, wildly irritated. He would find my impatience charming and wouldn’t mind picking up dead mouse pieces from Sprout. Opening my eyes and cocking my head, I stared at the door for another moment, aching with some mixture of longing and loss. Nodding once in acknowledgment of the life I’ve chosen, I finally emerged from the car and opened the door myself.
Chienne charged outside, overjoyed that I’d returned home and I smiled at her as she leaped to greet me. “How’s the good girl?” I asked, grinning at her exuberance. I carried in my computer and a case of soda while asking if she'd taken a nap or patrolled the yard in my absense. Then I fetched the large bags of kibble, Chienne prancing eagerly around my ankles. (She really likes fresh food.) I watched her wave her front paws at me and obediently fetched her empty bowl, shaking my head fondly as her tail continued to wag as she ate.
I patted the happy puppy on my way to the living room, encountering a sleepy cat who had apparently heard the clatter of kibble as well. He moved toward the smaller dish, sniffing carefully before beginning to daintily nibble. I flopped on the couch to fill a new frame with photos of Little and Smallest Ones, hanging them neatly in the kitchen where I could see them all the time. “Almost,” I decided of my introverted nature, at once both loving and hating the quiet, “but not quite completely.”