“A homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past and the departed”
I used to sit out on the front porch roof, right outside my bedroom window, and patiently wait on edge for a shooting star. The silence at 2 am was thrilling. The magic that took over when that tiny streak of light finally made its way across the sky, so sudden it was easy to miss, but so entrancing it caught your eye, would stay with me forever.
I used to wake up so early, especially on summer days. The backyard was enough of an escape for a five-year-old, with the sun barely awake, wet grass under my bare feet, and the sweet scent of summer stuck to my skin as I lost time with fairies and far away kingdoms that existed in the honeysuckle bushes.
On Friday nights when we were little, my brothers and I would get in our sleeping bags and sleep on the pullout couch for movie night. Our mama would order pizza, and we would struggle to stay awake through the entire movie. Friday nights were for Homeward Bound, The Worst Witch, The Chipmunk Adventure, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, Free Willy, and Drop Dead Fred. I remember hiding my face in my sleeping bag so my brothers wouldn’t tease me for crying during the part in Benji when the dog gets kicked. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, the familiar sight of our living room slowly coming to me, and the feel of warm bodies surrounding me.
Even in the dark I could see the pictures in the frames that sat on top of the entertainment center. Even now I can see them, as if they still existed. As if that living room still existed, just inside the screen door with the broken handle, and the ugly green front door that you had to slam to get it to close right.
The stairs were on your right. Those stairs. The ones we used to slide down on cardboard boxes and I broke my butt bone when I was 7. The banister that my mama would put Christmas cards on was the same banister my brother would get his head stuck in so often we would just keep walking by him until his pleas got annoying. The stairs we would huddle on, watching and listening as our parents fought in the middle of the night.
Our older brother would lead us back to his room, the one at the end of the hall, farthest away from the chaos that became a regular 3 am occurrence. He would scare the shit out of us with ghost and murder stories, and then suddenly the sound of our family falling apart downstairs in the kitchen wasn’t that big a deal.
When the kitchen wasn’t a battleground, it was the heart of our house. Pancakes, board games, homework, birthday cakes, multiplication tables, heart to hearts, card games, chicken noodle soup – our kitchen table witnessed it all. That kitchen, with its yellow walls, cracks in the ceiling, and broken tiles on the floor, was the one room in our house where everyone gathered to eat, talk, and laugh. I remember having a friend stay for supper once, and when she was leaving she asked me, “Is that how it always is when your family eats?”
“What do you mean?”
“People just show up, and then everyone sits around and talks after you eat?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“Your family is awesome. I love it here.”
I loved it there, too. The good, the bad, the ugly, the anger, the fighting, the abuse, the comfort, the laughter, the noises, the chaos, the smells. My mama moved into that house when she was ten. She lived there until she was fifty-eight. My brothers and I grew up in that same house that sat smack in the middle of our street, where we were surrounded with neighbors that were more like family. My mama’s childhood bedroom became mine, the first one on the left when you came up the stairs.
I had one window in that room, the room that held my heart and soul all over its walls and my dressers. That window was my escape. It let out my loud, angry music I blared when my insides were just as loud and angry, letting the entire street know as well. That window gave me a view of the sky and the stars and the daydreams that happened in the night because I could never sleep. That window led to the porch roof, where the jump wasn’t very far, making it too easy to sneak out. In high school, my best friend would throw pine cones at that window to wake me up.
When we got too old to huddle in bunk beds and tell ghost stories to forget about the screaming downstairs, that window allowed me a place on the porch roof, where the silence of the night drowned out the timeless blackhole that was my parents’ marriage. As constant as those fights were, so were the stars in the sky to make endless wishes that never came true.
You used to tell me to wish on shooting stars, but that if I ever saw a falling star, to picture my future. I must not have done it right, because nothing happened the way you said it would when I made stupid wishes on dying stars. You’re gone. You left six months after dad did, and I will never understand how you could be so lost after you were finally free from the person that only brought you suffering.
But then you left, too, and all the suffering was left for us. I never stepped foot in your room again, the room where I ran to with bad dreams, sore throats, and tummy aches. I should have, though, because I never got the chance to again. That house is no longer ours, and I haven’t had a home in nine years. Strangers live in that house, laugh in that house, yell and scream, sleep, eat and love in that house now.
And as long as you’re gone and I keep fucking up my wishes on the stars that fall from the sky, I will never have a home again.