Not accidentally, this is the name of a not so well carried out but nonetheless carried out mini project of mine, inspired by the flat Ksenia used to inhabit in Celle as well as by her comment that it wasn’t her home.
I’m not like her in this respect. I remember Rumi telling me once that it was characteristic for Arieses to constantly work on their home in order to make it cosy. I tend to agree. Every single flat and every single room I’ve lived in has been home to me. It simultaneously continues to be and never will be. The only exception is a disgusting flat in Hipodruma [note: a district in Sofia] where I lived with my sister in my first year at university: the landlord – a bearded weirdo, to put it mildly, whom we immediately assigned the nickname “The Satanist” – would stay at home all day long inside a cloud of smoke he had exhaled himself and would check the water meter every time we had used the bathroom or the toilet. The door of our room wouldn’t get locked. The room, I think, looked north and there were bars on the windows because we were on the first floor. There were cockroaches, of course… Sofia definitely knows how to welcome.
I need several days to a week until I can feel a place as my home. I also need curtains, something on and in which I can cook and a bed. I think this is the basic minimum because I’ve lived months without a refrigerator (I’ll never forget how the yogurts would fall from the window sill and would get splotched in the bag that was their shield against the city’s dust and dirt). Little by little, day by day I buy new things, I repair something, I sew up some new tapestry for an ugly old chair, I increase the amount of books, I find hangers for all my clothes and there… soon enough when I start saying “I’m going home”, I really mean it.
That’s why for about three days in a row last week I was feeling robbed.
I have never liked our Usti flat a lot but I’ve always been grateful to Lukash for having found it before I moved to Czech Republic which saved me the worries of (I guess) almost 99% of all immigrants (or expats, if you will). In the beginning I couldn’t believe I had to take a shower in the kitchen and hold the shower while washing my head. It sounds weird but before that I had always washed my head with both hands. Gradually, however, I got used to everything and the new things we bought or found as well as the joy of living together turned this ugly-ish dark and comparatively cold place into a home.
That’s why, when the landlady stormed into the flat one morning and told me, “It’s better if you leave!” – a phrase which by the end of the day evolved into “If you don’t pay your March rent, you’ll have two hours to get out of here!” – my home suddenly turned into somebody else’s flat. What it had actually been all the time.
It doesn’t really matter why the landlady kicked us out. In short, both sides (of the in-existing rental contract) had irreconcilable differences. We had already made the decision to move but we guessed it was going to happen when “it got warmer”. Well, the weather here did become warmer and the landlady decided to do some spring cleaning, giving her “trash” (my choice of wording) the right to get lost by the end of the week. Pressed by time, anxious because of our inability to choose between a similar flat with flatmates or a smaller apartment for us only, we eventually pitched on a brand new flat a minute away from the old one. Small, more expensive, unfurnished and yet, pretending to be my new home.
The very first day we began to move, before we had even moved the bed, Lukash and I decided to sleep in the new place on mats and in a sleeping bag and even brought the big monitor to watch a movie. We ordered pizza. I felt like a child again. I went back to the time we were moving and my sister and I had decided to sleep in our new beds before we had officially entered the new house. At some point during the night I spent mentally designing furniture I felt something inside – I saw myself in this place. It seems that the flat has already qualified itself as “a home” within me. Now the only thing we need to do is to find some furniture and for me to feel comfortable so that I can take my clothes from a wardrobe rather than from the tent that’s pitched in the middle of the room (my idea :)).
This moving, however, will leave lasting traces in me.
Imagine our souls could change their bodies. To leave them when they grow weary of them or to be kicked out if they lead them in a direction different from the desired one. Or could it be really so? Do our souls move when the contract with their bodies expires? I can’t be sure but this thought helps me understand why I take each place I live as a home. I think that’s the healthy way of thinking and that if our souls didn’t take our bodies as homes, we would die physically very young and in deteriorated health. I suppose my soul would feel as robbed as I was on the day the Black landlady (I’m smiling at the screen because our former landlady’s family name is Černá [note: “black” in Czech]) with the scythe stormed in and demanded back the body that truly belongs to her. Because it’s mortal.
I guess not everyone feels the same. There are people who easily leave the places they had lived behind their backs. I think these people are more spiritually grown. The movement of their souls seems not to depend on their bodies. However, I’m not. I need my own place. I depend on the circumstances. That’s why the moment I realised our old flat wasn’t ours anymore, I couldn’t stay inside any longer. I was nervous. Even the thought of going to bed couldn’t calm me down because it was as if our bed was inhabiting a space that wasn’t ours. The last days I didn’t cook at all. And on the day we took everything out of the room (I didn’t think it was possible!) I looked at it – empty and devoid of any sign of life – and only then did I realise it had been just another ephemeral habitat. And it will be but for someone else.
The moving also made me realise something else: we have too many things and here I mean all of us. Again, there must be people who can fit their life in a backpack. I wish I was one of them, too but, unfortunately, my backpack shuttled between the two flats numerous times. All these things that are even now piled in the middle of the new room, keep on depressing me. Most of them have been collected during one year of co-habitation. What, then, is awaiting us? Does every person have a room in their house which they never open because it’s filled with old things we don’t want to use but to throw away either? Is every soul like this? And isn’t it the most illogical thing to try to fill the holes in yourself with objects when the idea is to simply tear up the space between them? Simple anti-masonry: instead of filling the holes, just demolish the wall.
I need to go. My yet another ephemeral habitat is waiting to create the complete illusion of being a home. I wonder how many such “homes” I will have to change before I finally feel the true freedom of having my own. Freedom that, according to a Brit I once hitch-hiked with, we Bulgarians with our own Socialist flats don’t appreciate. My true permanent habitat, if everything goes according to the plan, should look like this:
Or like this…
And I’ll be spending my time like this:
And with these few memories I’m saying farewell to my former habitat: