11.9.11

Home

I'm moving again. Packing up my growing number of possessions (though I haven't actually bought an item of clothing in two months - go me!) into an assortment of bags, boxes and bin-liners, and reflecting on this time last year when I was packing my most treasured possessions onto a train from Bristol to London, the city of dreams. I remember cramming myself, a suitcase, a sports bag and a laptop case onto the train and standing in the corridor between carriages the whole way, staring out of the window and watching the future race closer. I can't stop humming this song.
Home is where the heart is, and where you make it. I'm lucky enough to have lived in two good homes in London for the last year, and now it's time to put down down roots in a new one, which I'm hoping will be a more permanent base. Part of the transition from being a child to being an adult is realising that the concept of 'coming home' is fluid and flexible. Some days I get on the train back to Bristol and feel like I'm coming home, and some days I get off the train at Paddington with the biggest smile on my face, knowing that I've found where I belong. The simple answer is I don't know where I belong any more, and I made the decision to feel this way when I left and started new in the city of my dreams with no roots. But look at me now - this time last year I moved to London with savings to last four months, a list of phone numbers, a few internships lined up and the dream that kept me going. And now I've got my job, got a new place with two new friends, and I've got the whole wide expanse of time and the world waiting for me, to see what else I can try and do. 
Home is where the heart is, and my heart had to roam.

'In the bar where the living dead drink all day
and a jukebox reminisces in a cracked voice
there is nothing to say. You talk for hours
in agreed motifs, anecdotes shuffled and dealt
from a well-thumbed pack, snapshots. The smoky mirrors
flatter; your ghost buys a round for the parched,
old faces of the past. Never return
to the space where you left time pining till it died.
Outside, the streets tear litter in their thin hands,
a tired wind whistles through the blackened stumps of houses
at a limping dog. God, this is an awful place
says the friend, the alcoholic, whose head is a negative
of itself. You listen and nod, bereaved. Baby,
what you owe to this place is unpayable
in the only currency you have. So drink up. Shut up,
then get them in again. Again. And never go back.

* * * *

The house where you were one of the brides
has cancer. It prefers to be left alone
nursing its growth and cracks, each groan and creak
accusing as you climb the stairs to the bedroom
and draw your loved body on blurred air
with the simple power of loss. All the lies
told here, and all the cries of love,
suddenly swarm in the room, sting you, disappear.

You shouldn't be here. You follow your shadow
through the house, discover that objects held
in the hands can fill a room with pain.
You lived here only to stand here now
and half-believe that you did. A small moment
of death by a window myopic with rain.
You learn this lesson hard, speechless, slamming
the front door, shaking plaster confetti from your hair.

* * * *

A taxi implying a hearse takes you slowly,
the long way round, to the station. The driver
looks like death. The places you knew
have changed their names by neon, cheap tricks
in a theme-park with no name. Sly sums of money
wink at you in the cab. At a red light,
you wipe a slick of cold sweat from the glass
for a drenched whore to stare you full in the face.

You pay to get out, pass the Welcome To sign
on the way to the barrier, an emigrant
for the last time. The train sighs
and pulls you away, rewinding the city like a film,
snapping it off at the river. You go for a drink,
released by a journey into nowhere, nowhen,
and all the way home you forget. Forget. Already
the fires and lights come on wherever you live.'

(Never Go Back by Carol Ann Duffy)

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