a house is not always a home


he was frustrated, and therefore frustrated at me.

“how do you not even have a table? how do you live like this?”

it hadn’t really occurred to me before. the impracticalities of my living condition. but it was true, i didn’t have a real table, nor chairs, and as he repeatedly pointed out–my kitchen lacked a proper counter and I also don’t own a bread knife. or an oven.

in the past i had jokingly said i still live like a college student, because in many ways i do. the furniture i own came free. the dishes were extras my parents had. the bulk of my possessions comprise clothing and books–the same articles i have carried with me from room to room, country to country for most of my life. i have things, but few belongings. i could be packed and out of the place in a day.

he wanted a station to paint. and he hated the lighting.

“i want to redo your place.” he talked and i allowed myself to imagine my living space turning into a home. moving into the bigger room. turning one corner into a chilling area. making a guest room that could double as a study. a full dining table, and chairs. a proper set of kitchen knives. new curtains. i thought about where we could hang the random pieces of art and décor i have.

as i thought about transforming my apartment to into something more comfortable i wondered why i hadn’t already done all of this. why had i never actually bought furniture? why was the closest i had come to owning my own bed been an uncomfortable futon? why did i move all the time but never settle anywhere?

“we should buy a table,” he said, “it could be our first big purchase together.”

it was a nice thought. it made me smile. and then a moment of awkward took over, the moment where we realized this was fantasy. we would not buy anything together. we would not redo my (maybe “our”) place together. he was leaving the country, and as history is prone to repeat itself, that meant he was also leaving me.

and there it was, the resounding presence of non-permanence.

the constant of people coming and going. the constant of moving. the banality of acquiring possessions. of setting room again, and again, and again. of having each living space be temporary. so why buy a full sized bed? and then get new bedding to go with it. why find a dining table, and chairs, and dining accessories? why invest in a place that i am only passing through? why do all this unless i actually settled.

“once i settled” used to feel inevitable, it was linked to a career, a life partner, things that stayed constant. things in reality i know very little about. i believed they would come with age, with adulthood. and yet as i grow near 30, i wonder what i missed along the way. a table. a lamp. the right bulbs. a house being a home.

maybe one of these days, i’ll go find a table. and then i’ll get a chair to go with it.

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