If you were to ask me to explain home I’d tell you to redirect your inquiry to someone with a simpler answer. I don’t know.
I stood on the front porch of my house on Stamm Avenue on Sunday night. Monday morning. My mom handed me part of a desk and said to take it across the street, to the house we were moving into. I was seeing it for the first time. A luxury considering the last time she moved (Two years ago. Three years ago?) I hadn’t seen the place. I was away at school. I came home and didn’t know where home was.
The new house is nicer than the current house. There are no leaks (yet). There is no smell of cat piss (yet). There is no mess, clutter. There is nothing to drown in. Yet. So yes, I like it mom. And no, you should take the big room because I won’t ever be here. I’ll be in California if all goes according to plan. I hope you know I don’t love you any less when I say I pray to God it all goes according to plan.
The last house was bigger than the current house. It had three floors and a basement. I can barely picture the basement. I never go into the basements. I painted the walls of my room pink and white stripes. I laid a linoleum floor I bought from the dollar store for 25 dollars a pack. I cut out pictures from magazines and covered the fact that this was my eighth room. I made it seem like it was where I was meant to be. I made it seem like home. It was home. Just not for long.
The first house I remember was in Squirrel Hill on Forward Avenue. Something in the back of my mind always told me we’d make it back to Squirrel Hill. Growing up, Squirrel Hill meant the end of a dreary journey. It meant big, deep breaths. It meant living on the same side of town as my friends. Now I know, we will never move back to Squirrel Hill. Now, I don’t even want to.
My childhood took place on Orinoco Street. Of course it didn’t. But I have a scar on my eyelid from neighborhood pickup baseball. And I have a scar on my knee from tripping over my own feet. And I remember pinching a wasp out of panic. And I remember getting a splinter on the back porch. And I learned to ride a bike. And I learned to tie my shoes. And two older girls made me kiss Bam Bam. We didn’t kiss, they pushed our heads together. And I wasn’t allowed to watch Spice Girls with Jessica next door. And we had street rules. And I rode on Ashley’s bike seat while she stood and peddled us down the block. And I was always the Pink Ranger. And if that’s not childhood I don’t know what is.
I can’t hate the house on Sycamore Street despite all the nightmares. So much sadness was in that house it wore it to pieces. The ceiling leaked in the kitchen. The water made the front door swell. It wouldn’t shut and it wouldn’t lock. You try falling asleep. Everything was covered in papers. Secrets gathered in corners with the dust. The woods out back were majestic when my sister lived in that house. The woods out back were happy memories when I lived in that house. The woods out back are emptier now than they ever were. I wonder if the tree swing still swings. I sat on the back porch her Stepdad built. I went through an entire pack of sunflower seeds and most of the fourth Harry Potter. Before Harry Potter it was Barbie. She built a village in half of my room. My room was the attic. It was huge. But I was also very small.
There were more houses. New people live in them now. They all still live in me. My home has been the space I can create around myself. It is the people who form walls around me. It is my mother, and wherever she has decided to spill her mess.