There are few places a person can truly be alone. Existentially, of course, one can always retire to the solitude of one's own consciousness, although I always find this induces a wave of panic that prompts me to ask, “Am I good enough company for myself?”
But let's segue from this mildly alarming thought onto the pragmatics of solitude. I'm thinking specifically here of the solitude one gains on hearing the satisfying click of the lock on the bathroom door. This, in theory, secures the inner sanctum and ensures that interlopers are cancelled out regardless of their efforts. Yes, you may be able to hear the mayhem and carnage unfolding outside the door, but that's someone else's problem now. You're 'in the bathroom' and, as such, are incommunicado.
This may be a dereliction of duty, but it's extremely effective at deflecting requests for breaking up fights, changing nappies and answering telephones. You can take your time in this tiled and mirrored alter-world. Why don't you gaze into the mirror to check for crow's feet, test out that new lip gloss, perform a mini pedicure. These were the simple and fleeting joys of the bathroom.
I say 'were' because a disturbing and fundamentally divisive event rocked my belief in Solitude recently. I was happily shampooing my hair (something I only do every third day so as not to squander the scant moments of Sanctuary) when I heard the usual harks from beyond the firmly locked door.
"I need a Band-aid. Can you open the door?" bellowed the eldest Youth. "You'll have to wait, I'm in the shower," I reply.
He tries again, "No, I need it now. The blood's dripping." I retort, "No, just hold a tissue on it."
Silence descends and I feel content that a crisis has been averted. But then I hear it. A little jiggle on the door handle. Then, quite unmistakably, the lock begins to turn until 'click', HE'S IN! "Out, out," harangues The Shrew (as I am fondly known on occasion). He scarpers and isn't seen again until I emerge from the Sanctum, demanding to know how he breached the fortress.
He holds up his weapon - a 20 cent coin - looking all sweetness and light.
One half of me is devastated at the demise of the Sanctum, but the other is quietly proud that the Youth had the ingenious temerity to even try.
However, I'm still with Franz Kafka when it comes to solitude. "Don't you want to join us?" he was asked by an acquaintance who encountered him alone after midnight in a coffeehouse that was already almost deserted. "No, I don't."