My Hidden Lives // Prose

49. about other windows, stranger rooms

11 other windows, stranger rooms

I’ve always been able to sleep wherever I found myself.

Yellow hostel ceilings greeted me each morning, the scent of twelve young bodies perspiring in the heat of a dorm room familiar and soothing. Strangers’ flats were no exception. There was a point in my life where I thought waking up in my own bed was strange. I’d take in my carefully arranged furniture and the swallows rising from the foot of my bed and think, „Who is the girl that imagined this kingdom for herself –thirteen birds flying out of the window, a sign of better days to come, bookshelves pregnant with words she will never read?“

My red nails and melting black make up were at home in other countries, where I was carefree and fun and, more often than not, much happier than where I was supposed to be.

I contributed this strange paradox to my lineage, my past. Refugees are, by default, always strangers. Home had always been an abstract idea for me. I never belonged. Never fit in quite well, no matter how long I spent in one place or the other. There was always that feeling in my gut of needing to move forward, having to let go.

Someone told me my home was where my heart decided. But the heart travels with the body, and sure enough, mine has seen enough of the open road to think that where it truly belonged was Journey.

Journey. The land where all was possible, the place where I felt most alive, most like myself. I never felt as a tourist while traveling, like I did when I stayed put.

„Things will change as you get older,“ they told me.
They also used to say, „You will find your people and then you’ll know.“

No-one ever thought that my people would be wanderers as well, and that the only times we would truly find each other would be in those few rare moments of instantaneous connection: a meeting of the eyes across the platform, a long conversation about an obscure musician in a seedy pub where you can’t understand the menus, a dilemma of strawberry versus chocolate just before dawn after we’ve drained all other topics. A night on the town, an evening of careless drinking, someone playing a saxophone under the window at 4 a.m.

When all hope is lost, I thought, at least I could return to where I’d started from. I could again be nothing, a clandestine citizen in a little-known country, a blind passenger on a north-bound train. I never once toyed with the idea those „others“ may be right. I was sure there was little use in listening to people who were not acquainted with Journey.

Countries and cities flew past me in  a hurry. It was not me who was leaving, but always, it seemed to be them. They disowned me, like angry parents would, they gave sanctuary and then they took it away. I remained the prodigal son (I was never any good as a daughter), playing  my part well. Perhaps I could’ve been an actress.

The days we spent dreaming about foreign shores dwindled. I no longer wanted to leave as soon as I’d woken up. My friends – my swallows, my wanderers –flew away in this direction or that, finding nests in the most common of places. I thought we’d soar through the skies, but suddenly everybody needed a tree to rest in. Even me.

Eventually, I painted over the birds that sang me to sleep every night. I painted over my youthful dreams. There was nowhere new left to go, the novelty became staying put. Living every day. Making ends meet. Loving someone without a schedule, without a return ticket. In many ways, it was easier than I’d expected, in many more, even harder.

Some mornings though, I still rose with the instinct of running in the corners of my mind, that I now firmly keep in check.  Some mornings, I wish I could’ve gone where I imagine my birds now to be. Perching on other windows, outside of stranger rooms.

 

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