It is raining again. Fat heavy drops weighing on The Gardener’s sad flowers, gerbera, I think— and I am here looking for the home that I used to find in writing. Autumn is a good place to start.
It is cold in the kitchen and the windows need a scrub. For three years I have lived here and I have never, not even once, cleaned these windows. They are dusty, and there is a big gap between pane and frame that none of us can close, and there are three small snails sucking themselves along the glass, two in the petrichor air and one in here, with me.
I haven’t cleaned the windows not because I don’t like this flat, I do. For all its peeling paint, the gap in the carpet where the nail comes up, and the gap in the window where the wind comes in, I love it here. I spent my first unhappy year of university shivering under the sheets and seeing my breath and thinking of ALL the people I’d hopelessly fallen in unrequited love with on escalators with whom I never shared my bed. I spent the second year here, too, after moving into the big room with The Photographer. Making a library of my home by shelving my poor neglected books previously kept in stacks on the windowsill, under the radiator or on it. I am spending the third year here, too, my overflowing bookshelves looking less like the museums we make of our homes and more like an agonising cry for intervention. I have convalesced here, cried here, cooked here; I have unpacked here and I have lived here.
It is not, either, because I don’t care for this flat, I do. I fix the damp that seeps through from the steps’ sitting water — or rather The Photographer does, while I sit back with a pen in my mouth and pretend not to watch her — I paint, and I vacuum. In fact, it has dawned on me that I may very well have been the longest resident of the basement flat possibly ever, all save the son of The Gardener upstairs. It has dawned on me, too, that this little basement flat with its tiny kitchen and ever rotating list of inhabitants is, in the past five years, the place I have spent the longest and I haven’t cleaned the windows because I am always getting ready to leave.
There is a line in a book I love that reads:
‘The paradox of nomadism,’ says Sahra, ‘once you realise you can live in other countries you can never quite settle anywhere again. You never feel quite content.’
I have chiselled out a small nook in my heart for lines like this. Another one:
expatriation, like love, is not only a condition that devastates and reconfigures the self; it is, like love, a trope, a figure with which we try to explain, try to narrate profound psychological disruptions in terms of very measurable entities: a person, a place, an event, a moment, etc.
(There’s nothing I hate—perhaps I hate
the adipose deposits on my thighs
—as much as having to stay put and wait!)
Perhaps loving a book on the basis that one line perfectly encapsulates the orexis that characterises my being is not a good reason to love that line, or book, for that matter. But that is why. I love it because I love finding little true bits of myself in the writing of people I admire. I’m a narcissist like that. I love it because, since 2009, I have lived in two different continents, in three different countries, in four different cities and in ten different houses — and words are where I’ve made my home.
Hello, my name is Cornelia and this is my blog. I think it will be a mess, but it will be my mess, and it will be a beautiful mess.