Calum McSwiggan

The Closest Thing To Home

In Eat, Love on September 27, 2012 at 10:58 am

La Alcaidesa

 ‘I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.’

– Maya Angelou

The Italian family stopped eating all at once and looked at me puzzled, their jaws lolling open and their eyes popping out of their heads- I’d just told them that I didn’t live with my parents, and they were so perplexed by such a concept that they just stared at me in silence.

So where do you live? the mother finally asked me while worriedly refilling my plate, and I explained that I’d had a little flat in a town called Derby until everything collapsed and I decided to leave it all behind in search of something new. They all pursed their lips while considering this, generously stuffing large helpings of fried zucchini flower into their mouths and chewing slowly while they mulled this all over. So you’re homeless, senza casa, the father finally said, do you want to come live with us?

That’s the general reaction you get when you tell people that you’re homeless, they automatically start imagining you curled up at the side of the street with only newspaper to keep you warm, and start offering to help you. But my homelessness is different, it’s by choice, it’s liberating and freeing, without having to pay rent or be tied down by the burden of responsibility, I’ve managed to achieve a sort of middle class homelessness that involves sleeping in hotels and drinking cocktails by the pool. I can find myself an apartment in Budapest for a few days and call it my home, or lie on the beaches of Ibiza and call that my home, too- and quite frankly, nothing makes me happier.

It came as quite a surprise, then, when I engaged myself with a mental exercise where I tried to decipher the three things that I really wanted in life, and I found myself effortlessly penning home as the final point on the list. Home isn’t really something I ever realised that I missed, especially after only going four short months without it, but the more that four lettered word stared up at me from the page, the more I realised how much I was starkly beginning to crave it.

I miss the little things- going to the supermarket and preparing myself a meal; going to have lunch with friends without first having to book a flight; disappearing into my flat and knowing that everything inside belongs to me- all of these things seem so mundane and ordinary but without them I feel hollow.

And so I wonder, if these things are so important to me, then why am I witling down my savings by constantly being on the road? Why don’t I just go find myself a home? – It took me several days to find the answer, and it was only when rereading my first blog post that it struck me with the entirety of its obviousness.

As I leave, it’s obvious to me that I’ve exhausted this small city of all it has to offer, and it’s time to explore the rest of this expansive world.’

It’s not that I don’t want to go home; it’s just that I don’t know where it is.

The strangest thing of all, though, is that whilst I visit my parents in the south of Spain, I realise how at home I feel here. For the past four years home had been the central city where I was awoken nightly by the sound of regurgitated kebab meat splattering on the pavement, it’s odd to think that it’s now the smell of lightly spiced sea air and the sight of streets lined with palm trees that conjures images of home.

I may not be able to have lunch with a friend, go into the guest bedroom and find it filled with my things, or go out and prepare myself a meal, but it’s a place where I can rest my head, isolate myself, and know that, for a few days, I don’t have to worry.

And I think that’s why the Italian family were so confused- I’d left out one small yet important detail to my story. Although I am homeless, and although every worldly possession I own is packed into my little suitcase, knowing that I can visit this little safe haven, whenever I need to take a breather, is what keeps me afloat.

It isn’t home, and to my parents disdain it never will be, but while I’m looking for the perfect place to set up shop, I’ve no qualms in calling it the closest thing to home.

  1. I heart you Calum. Seriously, you are amazing.

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