They say home is where the heart is. But mine is being sold – my house that is. But whoever buys it, whatever unsuspecting 2.4 family with a gerbil and trust issues moves in, they are buying a part of me.
My parents have split up. At 26 this should be something I can both rationalise and move on from. Yet the fallout of such a messy event is still being felt – and they split 18 months ago.
Being told this morning that the house in which I first pretended to run away (to the upstairs cupboard), first lost my hamster, probably my virginity and at times, my mind, is being sold to some horrible (I am sure they are) strangers makes me deeply sad.
I walked around in my lunchbreak listening to Holding Back the Years by Simply Red and remembering times of old, before my Dad got a floozy and my home was a place that I could always escape to, whenever it all got too much.
As I have got older, this has become the case even more so. So many times I have fled there, my girlfriend picking me up from work in a Ford Focus chariot and speeding me to Somerset for a long weekend of ironed duvet covers, well-prepared food and early nights. It has been a refuge to me – a place where each crack in each wall means something (such as that’s where my eldest brother cracked the other’s head by slamming the door into it) and the smells mean more to me than a waft of Oxo on a winter’s day.
That place represents my family and my very being. It is an old, crumbling farmhouse now, empty of the children that once tore through it’s safe and solid doorframes, climbed out of windows and flooded the bathroom floor.
It’s where my dog died, panting lightly on the golden gravel as I stroked his silken ears and felt his breath warm on my wrist. It’s where he is buried. It’s where my cat lives. She, very much like me, hates change. She sits, as she has done every day for 11 years, waiting to be let in, mewing for milk and wanting attention. The roof is where my brothers put her, pretending she was stuck so that I would cry and kick their bikes.
It’s where we hid in barns, ran through long grass and got bitten, heard mum calling us in for tea. It’s where school mornings felt so dreary and dreaded; where coming home meant Neighbours and arguing about the remote.
Today I feel sad. I don’t feel the warmth of its embrace any more. When I next go there, I will have to say goodbye, like it has an illness that can’t be cured. But it will not die. Not that I want it to collapse and kill the new inhabitants, honestly, but what I mean is it will always be there. Not just in my subconscious, but also my reality. If I go past it, it will be like I have pawned it in and can’t afford to buy it back. It will stand there, just as it has always done, but not for my pleasure anymore. Still full of my memories, but now full of other people too. I can’t stand it. It must be like watching your partner sleep with someone else. Only I am more jealous about my house because it is mine. In a way that people cannot be. It can be bought and possessed, sold and inhabited. Plus, it can’t have sex with anyone else. It can’t even flirt.
Home is where my heart is. Without it, I will be like Paul Young, laying my metaphorical hat wherever I go. Even when I have saved enough money to buy a house (say in like 2050), it won’t be like that one. Although I suppose if I want to run away, I can always hide in a cupboard and pretend to be nine again. Sounds like a good idea to me.