A Kind of Place
By Will Hunt
Content Warning: homophobic slurs, transphobia, general bigotry.
Home is a kind of place that is meant to be beautiful. The word itself makes you feel warm and welcomed, hearty and whole. Maybe, like many of us, you do not think of an actual home, but rather some sustained medieval image of a glowing hearth surrounded by old wooden beams – maybe the characteristic cry of a child playing, or a steaming pot bubbling over with a loud pop. Maybe you think of your old room, with plastic toys long lost – a teddy bear, still within reach. Maybe you think of a crayon drawing with a triangle atop a square, a single window with a quarter frame on the right – next to the door with the small circle.
Maybe, like some of us, you feel rage:
Rage, and sadness. Rage, and disappointment.
Home is a kind of place where hidden tracks reveal themselves. Where trails trinkle forth, sprouting outward like a maze of roots from that home only you, and a close-knit group of smiling neighbours, know. Through whispers and walks and wild sayings carried through the winds, you know that behind the rusted gate, behind the hip-high, overgrown grass, is one thing:
Down the path you go, pushing through weeds and branches, scouring through scattered leaves and diving, diving into the unknown – that side route you always wanted to take. Gone now is the familiarity, gone the comforting knowledge of it takes a village. You go, spiralling through a dream of bushes and trees. Waves in the distance. Thundering, echoing, booming: waiting, to reveal some hidden truth, some hidden knowledge – a new path, beneath the surface of the old, beneath those leaves and behind that grass. Some fire, to light your way. Some new hearth.
You reach the beach, sand pouring in between your toes, wind assailing your ears. Your lips quiver, your eyes sting, your cheeks are rosy. You smile and watch the sea, grey and mesmerising, rising and falling with choppy melodies – a giant membrane of foam crashing onto the sands, clawing towards you. You dip your toes and feel the sand run away. The coldness hits you full force. You are stunned for a second, but then, and only then, does it feel serene. Harmonious. Despite the vigour and despite the chaos, this place feels like a new kind of home. Different. Isolated, perhaps. Cold, not warm, but new and exciting. You feel your mind at ease, and suddenly, new thoughts come to you. New ideas about the world. New connections. New “what ifs.” An answer, if you will, to your wonder.
“Home,” you say, “is a kind of place.”
“What kind of place?” they ask, and you are hesitant to say.
Here, your room is small, and at first claustrophobic. Out your window is industry: rail-loops that sound all day, apartment complexes that reveal the inner-lives of too many; universities, more research institutions with slim architecture than the cultural centres you had imagined and hoped for. Your library does not have dusty rows of books to the roof, held by age-old wood beams with sliding ladders that creak on their rusted paths. No, it has blockbuster printers and abyss-filled monitors that seem to stare right back at you. Somehow, still, you love it. Maybe you romanticise it, but here, people seem to care. People are interested in you. You, for once perhaps, are interested in people. Maybe, you are interested in the same things, the same place, the same zeitgeist. Maybe it takes a village, but sometimes you have to make one.
“Well?” they say, prodding you along and smiling, for once awaiting what you have to say, rather than a chance to say something themselves.
You laugh. “It’s a kind of place.”
“Yeah, but your home is supposed to be beautiful. In the country too! I would love to see the beaches.”
“Yeah, I guess. They’re pretty nice.”
It is supposed to be beautiful, isn’t it? Home is a kind of place that is meant to be beautiful. With beaches that roll on and people that finish the night with an expensive bottle of wine. Home, a beautiful place.
When I go home, I tell people what I study: they laugh, and then they call me a faggot.
When I put my hand up in my literature classes, people smile and listen. It has a calming effect for me, like the beaches back home. It’s like a constant white noise – it hums and dissipates all other thoughts. There are no thoughts of “well, am I going to be laughed at for this?” or “well, they don’t really care, do they? They probably think you’re some weirdo.” (Except, they wouldn’t use a euphemism like weirdo, would they?) No, all those thoughts, those question marks, and “what ifs”, they dissipate. They never really were there, anyway – not here.
It feels as if the people I am amongst enter my mind, subconsciously, constantly. They have some hidden telepathic power. Some magic. I look around at them and think: your thoughts are in my mind. Who you are is who I am. And somehow, I feel better. Somehow, I smile, and know:
It’s a pleasurable kind of place, this little beach, these waves of faceless people. Here, amongst roads and vehicles; here, amongst friends and family. It’s a very nice place, and I’m scared for when I have to leave.
Sometimes, I don’t want to go back home. When I go back home, something always happens. Someone always says something. It’s a different place than it used to be. The waves used to crash and calm me, now, there is only a flurry in my chest, a foot that won’t stop tapping, a leg that won’t stop bouncing, a mind that won’t stop thinking. I have pleasant walks with my dog, through greenery and sunny days that make you think how good life can be. Maybe, I’ll walk down the beach, and for a time the water will be still, and the sand will be warm around my feet. I’ll see old friends and sure, they’ll say something – but I have a beer in my hand and a cloud in my head.
It’s gone as soon as it comes. You feel like a coward. But it’s gone as soon as it comes.
But then it hits you, out of nowhere, in those moments where you feel comfortable, where you think nothing here could happen. This is home. This is beautiful. This is it, you think. This is it. It’s changed. It’s done. Finally.
Then, the tidal wave smacks you, knocking the air out of your chest, making your legs fail and your body whimper.
Home is the kind of place where it’s okay to call a literature student a faggot.
Home is the kind of place where it’s okay to say a phrase like “they/them/it.”
Home is the kind of place where beer mats say, “fit in or fuck off” and everyone finds it hilarious.
Sometimes, home is the kind of place that doesn’t make you feel home at all. Sometimes home is just a bundle of rage, of disappointment, a place where all you want to do is punch the wall, break your hand, then punch it again – where you want to grit your teeth and scream, scream so loud your lungs burst and your heart stops. What good is it here anyway? A heart? Really?
Home is a kind of place that is meant to be beautiful.
Instead, it’s just ugly and sad.
Home isn’t my kind of place – not anymore.