houses and homes

A few days ago I smashed my ceramic pottery out of anger. It was anger I’ve never felt before; I felt it swell and pulse in my breast, then spiral inward and inward and inward into my chest like a corkscrew, until it turned about, ready for release. Hot salty tears blinded me. I kicked and raged in my bed, screamed into the night, my voice echoing about in my ears. I grabbed one lopsided pot and threw it against the wall. It shattered into pieces, the part and parcel of what was once whole skidding in different directions. I took a ceramic plate and hurled it down my tiled balcony floor with all my might. It shattered too. I broke the rest, feeling my anger subside with every smashing sound, yet I secretly hated myself even more. Minutes and hours of pottery practice, now scattered in smithereens, gone. After I’ve exhausted myself I fell to my floor in a heap, silently sobbing myself to sleep. I woke on the same floor with dust on my face, soiled feet, and a bitter taste in my mouth. I spent the morning crying and the rest of the day in a somber mood, feeling as if I’m carrying the whole world on my shoulders.

Today is a holiday. I have barred myself from the whole world with one slam of the door. I’ve been feeling worse and worse every day, and I am so tired of walking inside the same house, tiptoeing my way in because I do not feel at home in my own home. I am outside in my balcony, trying to write my feelings away because I have no one to talk to. Or, perhaps, because I always refuse to talk to somebody. I am sitting on my cooler/makeshift chair, my laptop resting on top of my pottery work table, Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things lying beside me. I feel so lost. I’m looking at the things around me: My pottery wheel, my pots and bowls, my clay, my tools, this lamp. I cry for these inanimate things; someday I would have to say goodbye to all of this, knowing full well that this house won’t be home anymore some time soon. I think of all the people in this world, those with no families, those who left everything behind to build a new life, starting from nothing — as if reborn again — but this time without the hands of their parents to support them and teach them how to walk. How did they do it? What if I can’t do it? What if I fail? And I think of all the people who don’t really have homes; and of people whose only homes are themselves. Like snails. Like me.

What makes a home? Is it the presence of a family? Of one’s favorite things? Peace and quiet? Solitude? A welcoming doormat? Does home pertain to the contents of one’s cupboard and books gathering dust on the shelf or the kind of flowers in the foyer vase? Is it the notes held by magnets on the fridge, ‘Remember to buy eggs and creamer’ — or is it the photographs hanging silently on the wall, silent, but speaks a thousand words? Is it the soiled shoes stowed away behind doors, evident of the day’s adventure, or is it the hamper filled to the brim with dirty clothes, or the waste basket with its certain sundries, each piece of trash personal and distinctive to its maker?

I’m only twenty yet I feel so so old, as if I’ve been around forever. And I feel so so weary, as if I can sleep forever. I’d like to believe my life is just starting, not ending, even though I always feel like it is. I’m still trying to make out what home really is and what it really means; what I have right now, I’ve surmised, is not home.

When I think of home, I think of myself living alone in a quaint, tiny apartment with secondhand antiques. There would be a comfy bed and endless stacks and stacks of books and novels and almanacs and maps; I would have a clean, well-lighted desk for my writing and rumination, a work area for my pottery, and a small kitchen. Maybe there would be a tin can of tea bags or two, a couple of mismatched spoon and forks, and teacups — not wineglasses. I want to have a big canvas bag for my trips to the wet market, and maybe a nice woven hat; a pair of sharp scissors in my bathroom for my monthly trim, and a large jar of olive and castor oil for my face. I won’t have television, nor a landline and a doorbell, save for maybe an internet router, a little cellular phone, and my trusty laptop. I must have sheaves and sheaves of good paper, envelopes, and a giant box full of pens and pencils and erasers and sharpeners and more pens. A small space for my sad excuse of “yoga” and a heater. I want a wall of herbs lining my balcony, and a few potted edible plants for my own convenience. I want to grow a tomato tree and a chili tree, and I must have a water filter so the water man doesn’t have to bother me every week. I’ll have a small cupboard for spices, and magnets on my humble fridge. I won’t have instant food in my house. And I want one bureau for all of my clothing and nothing more. I want a window by my bed; not too big for the whole world to see me in, but big enough so I can look out and watch people and still be clandestine. My Smith & Corona typewriter will be in my bedroom, along with my vinyl pieces and cassette tapes, and my favorite Neruda and Bradbury and Szymborska on my bedside table with my journal and #2 pencil. I won’t have a car but I must have a bike. I won’t have an alarm clock because by this time, I hope, I’d have mastered and disciplined myself to get up at the right hour of the day to fulfill my responsibilities. I’ll have two extra pillows for when the night gets cold, and an extra long blanket to cover the tips of my toes. A medicine cabinet. A calendar. An umbrella stand. A library card. A sudoku book!!! A sheet of sleeping pills. An extra key for my lover. A lover.

And he can come by any hour, any day, of the week. And he can stow his shoes behind my door and sleep beside me until the time he has to leave again…and come back to me again. Secretly I want to wake up with his arm around my waist and his mouth leaving trails of kisses on my shoulder and neck and I’ll just know it will be a good day, and I will slip my arm–numb and swarming with imaginary pins–from underneath his sleeping head but, I think, I think, I cannot have everything. But we can sit by my sorry couch for a while and talk about life over wine (or orange juice), and kiss over wine (or orange juice), and see and know and touch and drink and eat of each other’s love, love from the marrow of our bones, the very essence of our souls. And by this time I will know love and what it truly means, and I will return it tenfold to every person I come across in this Life. And when I speak, I’d speak with spontaneity and not have to turn to my stash of ready-made retorts. And when I walk down the street for my daily afternoon walk, I won’t be wringing my hands because I will have, by then, not store-bought confidence but real esteem. I won’t be a “Yes, but” person, but a woman with a little spice, and I won’t have to wonder if I’m living for my eulogy or my resumé because I will be living for neither. And perhaps I will still talk to walls and inanimate things and write every beginning sentence with a coordinating conjunction, but when I turn my key in my door I’d turn it with no hesitation and when I walk inside, it won’t have to feel foreign (as if I was invading someone else’s space) because home will finally feel like home.

Life… Life, you’re beautiful, but most days you just fail to take my breath away. You just can’t get any more fecund, rainbowy, more anthillful, changeful, contriving, or uncertain-y. Sometimes I walk by flowers and think, “What a waste!” When you think about how much effort was spent on perfecting this precise petal, that precise pistil and scent, all for a one-time appearance, so short-lived yet vulnerably proud. And I look at myself, after all, why me and not the rest? Sewn up in skin and not fur or scales, topped off not by leaves but with eaves of hair and a face, this precise self–sinful not divine–not in a nest, but in a house, a house but not a home?


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