What a strange and solitary Shabbos I had.
The dorms were deserted, except for a few R.As (Resident Assistants) who were on duty. My flight is this Sunday (we bought the tickets very much in advance, and by the time I realized I could potentially leave Thursday night, it would not make sense to change them) so I spent Shabbos by myself.
Alone in my room.
It sounds sad, but it wasn't, not really. First off, it was my own choice. I didn't want to go away for Shabbos and face all the complications of getting back in time to pack and make sure I was up and awake at the ungodly hour I must be tomorrow.
There were meals with the Resident Assistants downstairs in the lobby (bring your own food) and the like, but I didn't really want to leave my room.
My Shabbos started in an interesting matter. It started with my mind battling me, my realization of this, and yet an overwhelming desire to succumb. And yet I didn't.
You see, my roommate has a microwave.
Oh yes, she has a microwave. But she asked that we keep it dairy.
Because she's vegetarian.
So I said yes.
But then comes this Shabbos. And this Shabbos I had cold Chinese takeout food I was keeping in the fridge. No matter what I had bought (kugel and chicken vs. Chinese food, etc), I would have had to eat it cold. And I didn't want to eat sandwiches in honor of Shabbos. So I bought these delicious potstickers and the like, thinking that I would warm them up before Shabbos.
And then, standing in front of the microwave, I remembered that I had promised to keep it dairy, and that I couldn't.
What made this all the more difficult is that I knew that she had started eating meat again, but I also knew that this was conditional- it was because if she didn't eat meat at Stern, she was only going to eat carbs.
And see, here I was, and I realized that she would never know. Because who would tell her? I'm the only one in this room. I could so easily eat warm food, warm tasty food, and she wouldn't know. And would she really care? I'll just make sure that nothing drips over or anything like that. All the food is covered.
My mind tried to talk me around in circles and I can't describe how much I just wanted to put the food in the microwave, warm it up, set it down, and begin my meal. It's a ridiculous thought- most people talk about temptations in terms of sexual desires- but this was my small temptation. Except that it loomed before me, and it really wasn't very small at all.
And a very strange thing gave me courage. And that was that I wouldn't have to bear it all alone. I could tell you, or my parents, or someone, and they would give me approbation and commend me on leaving it be and keeping my promise. But I don't think I could have done it without that. I needed someone to know.
It's so hard, to be all alone and realize you can do anything and nobody will ever know.
So I ate cold Chinese food this Shabbos. Which wasn't so fun.
And I stayed in my room this Shabbos. It was an experience for me, one that I wanted to undergo. I read five or six books, having left my light on. I did not speak aloud, merely concentrated.
And by the time it reached the third meal, I hungered for human contact. For voices. Because it was so eerily quiet.
And it made me think what it would be like to live alone.
I don't just mean in a single in the dorm. After all, in ordinary circumstances there would be a buzz or hum in the hallways, as opposed to the oppressing hush.
I mean really alone. Like a college student, living all alone in an apartment. Or a seperated husband and wife, also in different apartments.
Of course, there's email and telephone service (under ordinary circumstances) but just to experience this Shabbos, where I had absolutely no contact with anybody other than myself (by my own choice) until the third meal, when I went downstairs...really made me think.
And I think I understand now about why we give hospitality to others, and why it is necessary. Because to live in that silence day after day would be too unbearable, too frightening, too disquieting. Even with books.
To come home to nothing, to go out knowing that no one is waiting for you...what does that do to a person? All kinds of things, I would think. Of course, that's why some people stay away. They go to bars, or to restaurants; they spend time with people whenever they can.
I have a new understanding of what it means to be alone, as opposed to being lonely. One can be, as the Rav and many others have written, lonely in a crowd. It is an emotion, a feeling. But just to be alone, all alone, can potentially have strange effects upon someone.
I'm comfortable with myself. The silence was not terrible, and I was absorbed in my books.
But it would be a lie to tell you I didn't smile and give a sigh, almost of relief, when I turned on the radio.