The thing I miss most is feeling at home. Among known objects, down familiar paths. Safe from the uncharted.
It’s strange how I’ve changed from this adventurous, explorer of new worlds person, into this permanently craving for shelter version of myself. “Men hunt and women nest”, isn’t that what Seinfeld said? In its context at the time, it made me smile. But it was just a joke. It had no roots in reality, not in my reality for sure. I most certainly did not nest. I traveled and discovered and lived. I hunted adventure.
It’s the thought that I used to have a home that’s been bugging me. A windowed cement crate with my name on the letterbox. Strange how this idea of owning things, of putting your name on them, has suddenly become important to me. Strange and superficial and materialistic, and I’m ashamed of it. But this is it. This is something that matters to me now. Having something. Being somewhere mine. Being somewhere homely.
We’ve been changing homes so often, I don’t get a chance to even leave fingerprints on every surface before it’s time to pack up again. I don’t get to buy books, blankets, cereal bowls, we’ve got enough junk to pack and unpack as it is. I miss it. It may be ridiculous, but I miss my things. I miss my books. I miss my chair. I miss my floor, my windows, my light. I have this deranged fantasy constantly rewinding in my head, how if I could get all those things here, whatever here may mean, or if I could attempt to build them over again, pick a new shelf, nail something to the wall, get a new toaster, well, if I could somehow do that, everything would be just fine for us in this country. For me.
You can’t really nail stuff to these walls. You can’t throw anything out to make room for your dream shelf. They’ve put it all in your contract, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, and most of all, you can’t pretend this place is yours. It’s like you live in someone’s pocket for a while. Nothing to do but attempt to be yourself, with that stranger’s heart beating loudly, uncomfortably close, until it’s time to move into someone else’s shirt.
When we found this flat, it had everything. There was no need for us to buy anything at all, we could just go ahead and start living our super duper newly relocated happy life. I hated it. Nesting me wanted to, well, nest.
Of course this was very much frowned upon by our landlady. So I didn’t make plans, I didn’t replace, I didn’t paint. I moved some things around, it’s true, just so I’d feel I’d made a decision, left a mark. And I put some black and white portraits on a wall. No nails, I’m not that much of a rebel, blue tack worked just as fine.
So this is it, my nest. Less than a dozen photos on someone else’s wall. They’re not even symmetrical, I just tacked them on as I got them, with no final pattern in mind. There’s a window to the right and a few are beginning to fade. I see this as a little wonder. We’ve been here long enough for my wall to fade in the London sunlight. Do you know how miraculous that is? And London sunlight, who’s ever heard of that anyway?
It’s ridiculous how attached I am to this wall. I remember when and where I got each card. A couple I found in Foyle’s shops in London, others in little bookshops and museums in Amsterdam, Prague or even Las Palmas (I know, black and white postcards in Las Palmas? The world really must be coming to an end, and quite a depressing one at that.). V. suggested I’d just order them online, a batch of a hundred of them or so, enough to cover all our walls once and for all. I guess he’s sick of waiting for me to obsessively go through stacks upon stacks of cards each time we pass a stationery shop. But he doesn’t understand this nesting business.
Each card has a story. Each is a mark on the map of our life in this country. We are actually building something here, even if it’s just a tiny black and white postcard collection on a foreign wall. We’re very slowly building a home. It’s true it’s made of paper and it probably won’t fare very well in this who-needs-four-seasons-when-it-can-rain-all-the-time weather, but it’s a start.