Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Why I Where I Live

I live where I live now because the foreign company I worked with decided that lying was the better part of valour, and when termination came it was faster than a zap in the eye from a lightning bolt and the smell of burnt arse wasn’t quite so savoury.

All right, perhaps that’s not strictly accurate. But it was the beginning of a two-year chain reaction which eventually dropped me into Southeast Asia.

Dropped me. I should say ‘dropped me back’, really. I was born and raised there for almost twenty years before striking out for foreign shores and spending a decade away. Returning wasn’t a choice – it was a non-negotiable option due to legalities and visa issues. Eventually I found a job, and that job required a move from my hometown to the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

So here I am.

Funny how ‘home’ is defined as where you’re most comfortable. This small, stuffy room in a low-cost flat I share with a housemate is, and isn’t. It’s where I come back to after work to relax, to guard my privacy from the demands of a tremendously stressful job. It is not where my heart is, much of the time. In my dreams I’m still in a small apartment in Virginia Beach with russet shutters and a window with a broken latch. I climbed in through the holly bushes planted in front of it enough to still feel the rough texture of the sill beneath my fingers, gritty granules of dust sifting up into the air. The carpet still feels stiff where 20 gallons of water poured through the ceiling one cold autumn day and flooded the dining room and half my room. My mind has never quite left; sometimes I think that my soul hasn’t, either.

Here, in my room now, the moon can be a firefly darting outside the window leaving glowstick-trails of light. The concrete block of flats opposite offers only fodder for the imagination –a saxophone in a corner phone booth, an imaginary cityscape of lights with the secret lives of its tenants enacted out in lurid yellow and noir. There is no grass beyond a perfunctory patch down below in some strip of courtyard. Whoever coined the term ‘concrete jungle’ knew the vista from these windows only too well.

Sometimes I’m not sure if I live in an apartment or a pocketful of lost dreams spun from a web of days-now-past. It would help, I suppose, if the kitchen were more functional – I learned to love the therapy of cooking in my decade of prodigal-daughter-wanderings. But the stove occasionally explodes in a fury of gas when it’s switched on, and the water pipes have been fixed three times in the recent year, and nothing can be done about them because they’re old, and apartment management wouldn’t replace the entire building’s plumbing system anyway. So, rather than tempt fate, my housemate and I, we do not cook. Not often, and nothing elaborate – one-pot noodles, something simple. There is no inspiration for cooking creativity in a kitchen both poky and bleak.

Simply put: I live where I live because I have no choice. There are few cheaper places around. Public transportation is an abomination, and I do not have a car. Here, the bus stop is accessible and this is an important point. My housemate and landlady is an old friend; we rub along tolerably well, and we are forgiving of each other's foibles. It is not bad, living here. It is just not what I remember, and memory of places loved can be a tyrannical mistress when I can't take solace in baking because we do not have an oven.

But life happens. There are no easy solutions when city living is so expensive and one is not rich, when one must be close to one’s job. Sometimes, however, being here mines a vein of thoughts to be written, to be drawn. They’re often melancholy in nature, but a time or two, the golden colour-drenched sunset filtering through chinks of wire window mesh has made my heart sing. And when my heart sings, I must write it or lose the song forever.

I’m writing now, just before bed. Just before the stars in memory blot out the cheap surroundings and poverty, just before the boy I love finds me from over the sea.

Just before, where landscapes dream and I’m once more in a small Virginia apartment, dancing like a joyous, red-coated lunatic in the new-falling snow at 3am in the morning.

18 comments:

chest of drawers said...

I feel for you and hope you find a home sometime soon where you feel comfortable and happy.

Jessie said...

this post is filled with such wonderful details and metaphores. and i understand the longing to return to something that is gone. your writing captures so much.

Jennifer said...

Longing for home...

And you have a way with words.

Terri /Tinker said...

I thought I was the only one climbing through windows to get into my house! Wishing you a home as beloved and comforting as your previous home.

paris parfait said...

Such a beautiful way of describing your melancholic situation of home at present. I'm sure that your circumstances will change and improve and you'll find your true home. Meanwhile, keep writing! Lovely, bittersweet post. Am glad you have a sense of humour, which infuses your writing.

Jennifer (she said) said...

this is a beautiful way to describe the complexities of what we call home. and the way you write about it, the complexity and what you're feeling is well done. home has been struggle for me too for awhile. thank you for your words.

Flood said...

Thanks for stopping by to see my entry earlier.
I am really moved by your circumstance because I know that homecooking and home go together, in a creative sense and in a comfort sense. When you lose that for any length of time, it can be a hollow tug at your chest if you think about it too long.
I am zinging good vibes to your direction tonight. Thanks for making me smile and get teary all at once with your writing.

AnnieElf said...

So much, such feeling, such complexity and bittersweet yearning. Such strength to see the beauty in your disappointing present. I wish you well on your journey (as long as it may be) back to Virginia Beach.

GoGo said...

I hope you find your way back to a place you want to call home. All of your words sound beautiful.

I like "prodigal-daughter-wanderings"...its like a title to a book you might write some day.

Hundred and one said...

Goodness, this was so so well written. I was THERE with you. I really enjoyed it very much.

NuttersNotes said...

It's "home...for now." You are writing well and making the best of it. Memories of a life past lived is a difficult demon...but you appear to be coping well. Keep living now and looking forward. Lovely piece

Left-handed Trees... said...

"Sometimes I'm not sure if I live in an apartment or a pocketful of lost dreams spun from a web of days-now-past." Yes...you're really hitting something here. Beautiful, bittersweet word-vein...loved it.

AscenderRisesAbove said...

Arriving from Sunday Scribblings; wonderful writing - looking forward to reading more. Really enjoy your little icon portrait...

Living Part Deux said...

You write with words I want to consume, and have eaten them over and over this morning. What powers of description - of physical surroundings and of emotional responses. I'm so glad to have found you in this community.

Jamie said...

I think what you said about home being where you're most comfortable was so insightful. It brought into focus a lot of things I've been thinking about, so thank you.

I hope you find that soul home.

Kristine said...

wishing you all that your heart longs for...

Laini Taylor said...

Beautiful writing, and poignant. I have known people who were unable to stay in the US after complicated job/life changes and had to go back to countries they no longer considered home. I'm glad to discover your blog -- thanks for participating in Sunday Scribblings!

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