Life writing: Dreams of seven houses

Colour photograph of a wooden hut with a tiled roof and broken window

– I –
The house I lived in when I was twenty, sparse then, but now there are too many pieces of furniture and extra appliances cluttering up the rooms. I keep trying to rearrange them to make them fit but they don’t fit and I feel claustrophobic. I think “There was enough before. I don’t need any more. There is nowhere for any of this to go”. There are no electrical sockets. I can’t breathe. The back gate is rattling.

– II –
A cottage I have never lived in and never been to but it feels familiar. I find a bedroom that shouldn’t have been there. There are two beds with stained pillows and faded candlewick bedspreads. A piano sits against one wall next to a barred and locked window. I open the piano but have forgotten how to play. My hands are frozen and I feel a creeping sense of dread.

– III –
My grandmother’s house, where I lived briefly as a child. I still know where everything is and the kitchen smells the same as it always did. I walk outside and the coal bunker in the small back yard is open. I lean against it and reach in through the door, feeling the black dust settling into the cracks in my skin.

– IV –
A grand wooden chalet with soaring arches and vast windows overlooking a lake blanketed in thick mist. I pace through luxurious rooms in the half-light of a time of day I can’t quite identify. I pick up pieces of metal and realise I am building a gun. I go outside and climb into a small boat, start the motor and leave the house behind. I have no idea where I’m going but I’m moving and it feels like comfort.

– V –
My parents’ old house where I grew up, quiet and precise, with everything exactly where it should be. I am alone inside but there are people in the garden, staring in. I don’t know who they are. I try to lock all the doors but they won’t stay locked. I hear a window breaking. There is blood on my hands. I think, “Never go upstairs”.

– VI –
An underground palace. I find a trap door leading to a basement where gravity doesn’t work and I float just above the cold stone floor. Music is playing but the room is empty apart from a black dog, wandering, lost. It doesn’t see me even when I am right in front of it. I try to touch it but a force holds us apart like the north poles of two magnets repelling each other.

– VII –
A house by the sea. The tide is rising and I know that this time it will not stop until everything is buried under water. I gather what small belongings I can carry and know that everything else will be left behind. There is a person with no face who refuses to leave. I tell them “I’m going to open the door and this place will fill with water. If you stay, you won’t survive”. They sit in silence, as if I haven’t spoken, as if the world isn’t ending. I turn and greet the oncoming tidal wave with a sense of calm and serenity that somehow never seems to find me when I’m awake.

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