Home, Away From Home

“Looking back, it is so much more. Life happens twice, I believe. Once in the moment, and again in retrospect.”

Art by: Owen Carson

Memories of my teenage years have turned into wispy little clouds. Something you could blow apart with your breath and yet something that still occupies space. I remember the greater themes, the main emotions, but the little details always escape me, out through a mousehole in my brain. I’ve always been a ‘bigger picture’ kind of person, for better or worse.

And in the ‘bigger picture’ versus ‘detail-oriented’ debate, I’ve always sided with my view of things. Though always secretly wishing that I could have both.

But how lucky am I, that I have time capsules buried around this earth. That memories are not just floating bits of data, that they are connected to scents and places, times and people.

I pushed open the doors to the library, and deeply inhaled the scent of books and summers past. It smelled of rainy Saturdays spent cooped up in a hushed library, of too-warm afternoons spent falling asleep, nose deep between the pages of an open tome. It smelled of extended lunch breaks spent reciting verse in the small school library.

It is home, this room filled with books.

It is lacking, yes. It lost its one copy of ‘The Little Prince’ and the floorboards are a little wonky.

But it is home.

It has been for a long time, now.

I’ve been borrowing books here ever since I was 12. Oh, back then, I was painfully shy and my nascent social anxiety did not make it very easy to be out in a cramped room with strangers. But I remember now, that first day. Even with all my fears lodged in my throat, I had been able to breathe in deeply the scent of inked pages, and then out.

As someone who did not fit anywhere else, who was still searching for some place to belong in, this was home.

My first home away from home. The kind of home you have to find when you grow up and your worlds, your circles expand. When you have to exist in places other than school and ‘home’. When you have to find yourself.

But you don’t really notice when you do it, when you spend every Saturday at the city library. You don’t notice how it shapes you or your life, how it later turns into an elaborate explanation of why you are who you are now. You do not realise how later on, it will turn into ‘that summer when I was 14 and used to go to the library every week’. Looking back, it is so much more. Life happens twice, I believe. Once in the moment, and again in retrospect.

But that library was my first safe-place. My little treasure-box, my solitary island. A place where I had long, silent conversations with characters from other universes, where I befriended authors I would never meet.

To think I forgot all of those feelings at one moment in time, that I lived my life not remembering seems ludicrous. But how lucky am I that I have time capsules buried around the city. That memories are not just floating bits of data, easily lost to Time.

Listening to:

A Young Heart

Art by: Cherise Harris

Do you ever feel like…home is not home to all of you? That yes, home is soothing and comforting—safe, but even between the toasty layers of your pajamas and blankets, there still hides the smallest ball of light, vibrant and tireless, restless to just go. Scratching at all your carefully arranged layers of warmth, emerging like a heartbeat that you try to quiet down after each thump.

It is a secret you hide from yourself, willing yourself into ignorance, into safety. Not wanting to partake in the destruction of comfort so painstakingly obtained.

It’s strange to feel that so constantly.

To have your quietude stampeded upon from the inside. Defied by a wild heart bathed in kaleidoscopic visions of ethereal worlds. I want quiet and solitude, reflection, meditation, but my heart is still so young. Unused to the ways of life, eager to find out more, more, more, as much as the world can give and more, more, more. 

So it stirs me up from peaceful sleep, taints my peach-painted dreams in colours of sky and ocean. It whispers of adventures and worlds to be visited, explored, created. And like an overexcited child on a sugar high, it will not go to sleep. Never, absolutely not.

So when it can no longer ignore its pull, my weary, wrinkled soul will take that young heart out to see the world. And there is something about that youth, that excitement, that makes my soul bloom anew. If only just a little.

The newness of discovery reminds me again of how beautiful the world can be. If only you look at it with the right eyes.


Le Mal Du Pays

Art by: Ree

In that dark room, with the curtains drawn, there is only the artificial light of the TV to illuminate my face. My hair, this wild bushiness, has sprung free and is twirling in all directions, wanting, like me, to go everywhere all at once. The result is the same whether it’s about hair or personal decisions: it’s a mess. There is sweat running down my neck, droplets of it prickling my back. There are mosquito bites too, adorning my arms. In the silence, tendrils of Liszt’s “Le Mal Du Pays” played by Berman travels through the night. The world suddenly feels very small, confined to this one dimly-lit room. I like the music better now, the second time around. This time, I feel it. Like I feel the heat trapped in between my skin and the cotton of my clothes. “Le Mal Du Pays” huh? Homesickness. I don’t know where I am homesick for. I feel I have never been there. Only once, vividly, in dreams. But there is no proof. That there is home somewhere. That I even had the dream—maybe I conjured the thought from my imagination. There is only this: this feeling that argues against everything. This feeling that will not be silenced, will not be stuffed even in this tiny, closed-up room, even in this darkness. Of all the music I could have chosen, it had to be “Le Mal Du Pays”, that too, when I am someplace many would call home.

Note: As promised, this is the entry for Day 27 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can read the entry for the previous day here 🙂

These Sunday Evenings

“A place to drift off, to find yourself loosening up and catching quite the recreational nap, as sunlight would filter through the window and rest  like a feather on one side of your face, all light and warm.”

I am so grateful for our little time-loop, our escape from the world. It’s not much, just a couple hours every Sunday, around 3 to 6, tea, cake and conversation or leafing through newspapers. A few hours of watching crap TV or of playing the same Mario Kart or Just Dance.

Sometimes, we all just lie down and ease into our own worlds, bodies still heavy and weary from the drudgery of the past week, and we don’t talk. We just shove each other around and gaze into our phones.

It seems a pity, doesn’t it?

You don’t see somebody for a whole week and when you do, you don’t even look at them.  But we never needed that anyway. It was never about how much we talked or what we talked about. It was just about being there, all together. Like an agreed upon thing we never discussed, these Sundays at Nan’s place. Some place safe. Somewhere you always belonged even though you could freeze your bum off on the tiled floor if someone decided to sprawl all over the bed. A place to drift off, to find yourself loosening up and catching quite the recreational nap, as sunlight would filter through the window and rest  like a feather on one side of your face, all light and warm. A time to suddenly notice the birdsong and the sounds of motorcycle engines roaring away. A place to reminisce or to tease (“I swear the mattress dipped half a metre down after you ate those 2 slices of banana bread.”) Or talk about the neighbours. Or complain about life and exams and expectations, or moaning about how there is nothing to do.

Just bring yourself, eat cake, drink tea, and be whatever the day wills you into.

Note: ‘NaNoWriMo’ Day 5