Where is home?
No one lives in the house we grew up in. It smells like old dust, and in December when Dar es Salaam is hot and humid, it smells like wet old dust. It’s a well-lived house. The white ceiling has brown patches where water once leaked during heavy rains and our rusty roof couldn’t hold it off. Over the years we have had different fundis patch up the leaking spots with new aluminium sheets. On days we visit, the shiny aluminium glistening beside aged green sheets is embarrassing, but this is also how I want to remember this home. Imperfect. Patched. Changing. There are old shoes full of cobwebs everywhere – at the door to the kitchen, on the wooden shoe rack in the corridor, and under every bed in the house. It seems like every time someone goes to the house, they leave a shoe behind, a memento to the house. Some days when I think of home, I think of all the shoes I left behind in every house I have lived.
My childhood home is like a dress too big - it is more than enough but not quite enough, not quite mine. I was born of that house. I was born of the stories of that house. Every grain of sand, every sentence, every pause, every hope. The safety of walls, and parents, and siblings. Sometimes, I don’t know who I am without those walls. But I guess growing up is leaving those walls and finding your own grains of sand, your sentences, your pauses, your hopes.
Home is that place you can never get back to - because it has shrunk because everyone else has grown, and the walls can’t contain that growth anymore, and without them, the old walls mean nothing at all. My heart breaks the same when I leave as when I stay. There is everything and nothing for me at the same time.
Home is my lover’s arms even when they are not holding me. They aren’t like a safety net. They are made of cotton and thorns - he can prick you if he wants to, but he doesn’t, and there is nowhere else you’d rather be. If I am his home, I hope my arms don’t contain him the way walls do.
Sometimes home is everywhere. Sometimes, it is nowhere. Sometimes, I miss it even when I am there. Home is a longing that is never quite fulfilled.
I want my home to be both the sky and the ground. Sometimes I grow roots. Sometimes wings. Sometimes I fly and land somewhere, and hope that too is home. Either way, I leave a shoe.