This nomadic life was of my own choosing.
I was restless in a small town; the pull of the unknown was strong. And so, over ten years ago, I tore myself from everything I knew and packed two bags and left my home for good.
In a new land, I kept few possessions. I told myself that should I need to move again, I’d pack everything required for my journey neatly and efficiently. I’d leave everything else behind – like a man walking out of a burning building who has nothing to lose, no reason to look behind.
I would always continue to accumulate mental baggage – gnarled recollections of places, people, and events, which, I’m sure, bear little resemblance to an absolute truth. But I promised myself that I would strive to stay unencumbered by physical detritus.
Recently, I visited the home I had once called my own.
The names on the marble slab next to the gate I had to enter to get inside were the same. But the letters had faded over the years.
I walked inside. The saplings in the yard had long given way to majestic broadleaves. When I knew them, I was green too. Now, like the aging trees, if you cut through me, you would have noticed the annual rings that marked the shifting seasons of my life.
I looked at the house. It needed a fresh coat of paint. The wooden panels of the windows needed to be sanded down. There were clothes hanging on the line, but not one of them was mine.
Stepping inside, I instinctively removed my shoes exactly where I would have put them ten years ago. The mosaic floor, which was missing a few pieces from the intricate puzzle, needed polishing. The walls looked rougher than I remembered them through the filtered distemper of memories.
The house had become older without my knowing it. I had sought variation in my life, clinging to the comfortable thought that there would be a small house –my home –that would remain unchanged in a distant part of the world.
After all, isn’t a home supposed to be a permanent unchangeable physical embodiment of our deepest desires? It is the reason we happily succumb paying off loans that last longer than our lifetimes. The reason we bequeath our cherished spaces to those we love the most.
My home will last longer than me. It will be around forever.
It is a dream we routinely pursue as we draw lines across sand and soil. As we pile brick upon brick and reinforce stone upon stone.
The countless digital photos we take of every nook and cranny perish as inevitably as the physical remnants, to be slowly engulfed by the bushes they rudely displaced.
And so with much trepidation I entered my room.
I took a good look around. It was just as I had left it. Was I hallucinating?
The pictures which I had hung up on the wall were still there. The ceiling fan still screeched and shook as if it was about to rip itself out of the ceiling. The books on the shelf, although now yellow and dusty, were still arranged in a familiar order.
But the more time I spent in the room, the more I felt like I was an outsider. Even though through some wondrous phenomenon, the possessions of my youth remained trapped inside the time-capsule, this room was alien to me.
At that moment, a younger version of me would have been lying on the bed staring at the ceiling fan with affected eyes, his ridiculously impractical floppy hair a badge of seditiousness.
What hackneyed aspirations and naïve musings would be going through his head? It would hard for me to guess. He would never have shared his intimate thoughts with someone like me. Of course, he didn’t know that he would turn into me.
And so, here were the facts – plain and simple. I could be transported through time, but this would never be my room again. It belonged to someone else. I was inside a house which would never be my home again. It was gone forever.
It was time for me to find another temporary confine, to aspire to make it my own for a brief nomadic season.
I shut my eyes and left. If I had kept them open, the house would have crumbled in front of my eyes.