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They chose to live alone. But in the grip of coronavirus, what started as freedom has sometimes turned to isolation.

Eating off the floor. Craving brief interactions with cashiers. Losing social skills. Sheltering in place is getting tough for some solo quarantiners.

Trenni Kusnierek, in Boston's North End: “It is clearly starting to affect me.”
Trenni Kusnierek, in Boston's North End: “It is clearly starting to affect me.”Blake Nissen for the Boston Globe

If only the Christopher Kuczewski of March had the wisdom of the Christopher Kuczewski of April.

April Kuczewski has spent the last month quarantining solo in his 620-square-foot apartment in Quincy, not talking to anyone face-to-face, unless you count masked interactions with grocery store cashiers.

March Kuczewski went to his office for the last time on Friday, March 20, as the pandemic was closing in, got his laptop all set with IT, and cut short a casual conversation with cubicle mates at his telecommunications company. He’d be back pretty soon, he figured, and he wanted to get home.

Oh, he’s home alright.

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“I wish,” said Kuczewski, 37, “I had appreciated the human contact more.”

A month into the state’s stay-at-home advisory, as parents and couples complain about homeschooling and spouses with annoying work and dishwasher habits, many who live alone by choice are finding they’ve got the opposite problem: They are too alone.

“It is clearly starting to affect me,” said Trenni Kusnierek, a sports anchor and reporter for NBC Sports Boston.

After joking about having the freedom to do as she pleases — six workouts daily — she relayed a dream in which she and a friend watched as a plane started barreling toward them.

“At least we’re not going to die alone,” her dream self said, grabbing her friend’s hand.

Then, back in a wakeful state, talking to a reporter: “It’s happening,” she said. “I’m getting lonely.”

Yeah, there’s Zoom and FaceTime and the warm bosom of Walgreens. And the joy of not having to fend off children, or deal with relationship stress. But there’s no physical contact, no loving gaze that’s not brokered by a camera lens, not even anyone else’s “Tiger King” obsession to cope with.

There are several ways to measure the longing for companionship.

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You can listen to the mental health experts.

“What was wonderful about living alone for the people who like to do it was the sense of freedom,” said Richard S. Schwartz, a Cambridge psychiatrist and co-author, with his wife, of “The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century.” “Suddenly it’s no longer freedom; it’s a kind of imprisonment.”

“The people who live alone didn’t quite bargain on having so much aloneness,” said co-author Jacqueline Olds, also a Cambridge psychiatrist. “They have more practice than the rest of us, but it’s a lot to take.”

You can look at the increase in pet adoption by singles at the MSPCA. “People are eager for companionship,” said director of communications Rob Halpin.

But perhaps nothing is more telling than this: More than one person told the Globe that they are starting to miss the T.

“I know the MBTA has its issues,” said Lisa Pardini, an assistant facilities manager in Cambridge, but after five years of taking the commuter rail and Red Line daily, she has friends on the rails.

“Humans are not meant to be totally isolated,” she said. “It is used as a form of extreme punishment in prisons, after all.”

Researchers have told us that COVID-19 is mutating, and some solo quarantiners fear they are, too. They worry that house arrest is changing their personalities.

“I’ve never in my entire life had months where I’ve had this kind of isolation,” said Adair Gregory a lobbyist and an outgoing guy who lives on Beacon Hill. “Will my social skills be as good as they were?”

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In Brookline, a middle-aged woman began to worry about herself when a few flakes of cereal fell on her kitchen floor and, with no one around to judge, she popped them into her mouth. “I’m keeping my floor fairly clean,” she said. “But still.”

“I have become — and I don’t like to use these words — a little bit of a loner,” said Martin Lieberman, director of content marketing at The RepTrak Company , a Boston-based reputation management firm.

“No one is motivating me to go outside,” he said. “I’m not taking good enough care of myself.”

Like others who still have jobs and their health, Lieberman emphasized that he feels fortunate. Indeed, many who live alone are the envy of those who are overrun by family members. and feel guilty for struggling.

“I should be managing this better because I don’t have anyone to take care of,” said Annaliza Nieve, a brand strategist who is living solo.

About three years ago, eager to be closer to nature, and farther from the stresses of Boston, she moved to Newbury, where she knew no one. “But now,” she said, "I’m so far from people I know that I worry if something did go wrong ....”

The notion of getting sick and being physically distant from friends had never before concerned her, but after having chills and a fever in late February into March, with no thermometer at home, she began to question her move.

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"You did this to yourself,” she thought. (She doesn’t know if what she had was a mild case of COVID-19.)

Meanwhile, some singles are tired of being by themselves, but also don’t want to talk to anyone. Or — or have a witness to their behavior. “I’m a little grouchy and short-tempered," said the MSPCA’s Halpin. "I’m not at my best.”


Beth Teitell can be reached at beth.teitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.