Let Me Help You Understand
I want to go home
I want to go home.
There is a fallacy in the communication of a common language. When we think about it, it makes sense to believe the sharing of a language yields a total understanding when we talk to each other. You tell me you’re hungry and I understand you want food. Excluding the possibility a room is too loud or we speak too softly and operating under the assumption that each word was heard correctly then the belief is two people have communicated at a 100% understanding rate. As I have said, however, this isn’t true. It never has been.
I learned about this concept in literary theory, but I think Alberto Manguel says it best: “Every time we say pass the salt, we do indeed convey, in essence, our request; and, in essence, our request is understood. But the shades and echos of meaning, the private connotations and cultural roots, personal, social and symbolic, emotion and objective, cannot, each and every one of them, travel with our words…”
Take for instance that phrase: I want to go home. It can represent a simple desire, we want to go to where we live. The people we are speaking to could have been to our home, have slept in our bed, and still the meaning of the phrase gets lost. They are missing the vast personal history of all the places we grew up and all the beds we slept in which weren’t ours which forever makes you desire your own room. The invisible strings of language which wove your words together are full of memories persuading you to leave. Sometimes, however, the desire is not so simple. We say we want to go home but really we’re thinking of another place or time entirely. We’re saying we want to go back to August, or first grade, back to the ocean, back to the first night we spent in our room when it all felt new and full of possibility. Only it's easier, instead, to say we want to go home because everyone knows the longing for a return, even if it isn’t how you meant it.
Recently, I’ve been feeling this desire more frequently, to go home. I thought, for once, instead of reverting to the common phrase, I might tell you what I mean.
I want to go home: The Ocean
When I swim in the ocean I open my eyes. I’ll go out past where I can touch and then push myself under, blowing the last of the air out of my lungs so I sink better. I’m looking for something, testing, finding the threshold where the water gets deep enough, far enough from the shore, that the bottom isn’t rocky and debris-strewn but instead is a fine sand. I know I’m close when I go under and my ankles hit a pocket of water colder than the rest along the floor. I’ll dive below the surface, my stomach skating along the sand as the waves above crest white, swimming back and forth. I’ll twist around, kick my feet, and wave my hands to feel the water more clearly. Sometimes, though, I’ll sit still and enjoy the fact that for a moment the only place I really exist is in the water. You’re not quite a person in some essential way with your head below. You feel lighter than usual but heavier in some places the way a return to anything homely weighs on you. I’m nothing and I’m everything in a way only I can understand. And perhaps it is that sensation, the letting of all responsibility. The way the ocean asks nothing of you and even your mind cannot conceive what you must be other than your keeper. To return to the surface when you need air and to feel the weightlessness of your own body as something else holds it. I digress. There are moments in my life when someone I like very much looks at me or takes my hand and suddenly everything feels like the weight it is beneath water. There is a home for me in that.
I want to go home: Mom
The other day I was crying in bed on the phone with my mom. I was hungover and I had a cyst bursting and I had been too hungover to take medicine for it so the cyst bursting felt worse.
“I wish I was with you guys. I wish I was home watching history channel in bed with you.” I said.
When I'm sick and even just going to the grocery store makes me tired, when I drink twice as much tea to soothe my throat and have a cough that won’t go away. When my muscles ache and my eyes feel swollen I find myself saying I want to go home. Usually, I mean I want to be in bed with my mom watching history channel. For me there is no feeling quite like knowing precisely where my mother is, and being close to her at that. To do nothing—she takes care of me just by being there.
I want to go home: Night walks and late shifts.
I’m supposed to be afraid when I leave work late and alone, but sometimes the circumstances are just right. The relief of being done with the things I don’t want to do and the prospect that I am going home to my bed, but also how in some ways all I have is time to get there. I still have blocks to walk and trains to take. Only in this space more often than not I begin to realize what I often overlook: I am living in New York City. The sensation not singular to the city itself but the realization that you are where you have for so long wanted to go. That you are in the consequence of it, its long commutes and spotty service, but you are also in the heart of it. The sound of laughter four blocks away rising up over the buildings and falling into a starless space. To be amongst people to feel safe enough to be alone with yourself. I think of everything. Mostly though I take comfort in the feeling of being done. Done with work, done talking, done with the day. The idea that things are moving and I am in the current of it and have the rest of the night and commute to make my way back even though often all I wanna do is stay out. The false belief that if I never go home then I’ll never have to come back to the part-time jobs we take to do the things we really want to do. Only the paradox is I am at home already just by not wanting to go there. Watching the damp streets turn the lights above to beams down the avenue. I’ll take the long way if I feel like it. Eventually, though I make it back I always do. With a longing in my heart, however, to be walking home on an empty street with no one to talk to.
I want to go home: My bed in Spring
The love affair I’ve had with my bed is long and full of mistakes. Eating in bed for example, pen stains on the comforter too. In early spring, where usually the night before I forgot we’d need the heat on for morning still, I’ll be the first awake. My bed clean and clear, the sheets just changed I’ll lay with a level of enjoyment of getting nothing done and without guilt for doing so. Lounging until the near afternoon even if I had been up early. Most of the time I close my eyes and I dream. I dream of all the homes I’ll take this bed to. I think of the fact that one day two homes might meet in the middle, someone special who in this bed I get to lay next to.
I want to go home: Twenty-one
Sometimes I just want to be as dumb as I was when I was 21 and the boy I was seeing wasn’t really that mean and wished me happy birthday before everyone else. When all my friends still lived in New York and were always half waiting for me to stop by. When everyone else’s apartment was also my home too in some kind of little way.
I want to go home: Old sad
Sometimes when I say I want to go home I really want to go back to the sadness I had before. I miss what I used to know, that these feelings had a definitive end and it was close. Days where I could walk my melancholy home and take pleasure that life was happening all around me anyway. When I was younger I remember having sorrow rather than sadness, the former having an almost beautiful quality to me. Of course, we all have the sad story of what happened to us and we have the life we had before it occurred. I love the now and being alive but I know the world in a different way than I used to. There's a complexity in me that I couldn’t have when I was young. This is not a bad thing. It is, simply, the context of which I see my life through humming in the background of my memories. A reminder that some things are unending and this may always be the sad thing that happened to us but joy exists anyway. Yes, sometimes I want to forget it all for a second and be happy for the sake that I am happy not because I know so much of what it means to be sad. This is a rare home I long for, but I must admit at times it does exist.
I want to go home: Dad
At the beginning of summer when the heat feels like a gift, I like to go home, the home I grew up in. I’ll sit outside for most of the morning and then again later in the afternoon because it would be a waste not to. I enjoy the quiet of being away from the city and the way the cars will pause just long enough for me to hear a breeze blow through the branches of a tree to make the leaves rustle. My dad will come home from work. He’ll go around back and climb the stairs to the kitchen. A few minutes later he’ll come outside and sit with me on our porch which is pink and peeling and birds live in the space between the lining and the wood of the roof overhead. In his hands will be a bowl of watermelon. He got it because he knows I love it. He got it because we both love it. So we’ll share. I’ll wait for him to say if this watermelon is a good one. To me though, the flavor doesn't really matter. Sitting there with him has a way of making it all good anyway.
I’ve heard that writing itself is a failure of its own. That we can only say something is like anything else rather than saying what it is. Perhaps this is not a failure but by design. That we are constantly trying to convey our muddled history of meaning to one another even though we know in some ways it to be impossible. To sit and explain seven ways of going home. I rejoice, to know the depth of our love is so powerful even the possibility of understanding a fraction of another brings us closer to each other. I make a home in that.
“If you walk slowly enough, you can hear bursts of conversations from each patio. I love the way restaurant sounds bleed onto the sidewalk. silverware grazing plates and glasses clinking—it is always rich and promising.” Happy Hour By Marlowe Granados
“He said my name like it were a secret only he and I knew.” April 11th, 2022 12:28 PM
“Sometimes I think you can meet people and the one thing you feel most deeply is how vulnerable you are to them. Looking back I was afraid he’d hurt me because I kind of knew he would. It was unfair to attach this to someone even if I was right. You can sense what people expect of you, what they presume, and what else can you do but somehow live up to it?” April 17th, 2022 5:53 PM
I made this playlist thinking of my future home. The name comes from Anaïs Nin. Recently I told my therapist I wanted to bring someone to where I grew up because in my mind it meant they’d come to understand me. As I said it I felt ridiculous. There is a sensation though in me to revert to the visual. To find my collections: playlists, silverware, vintage dishes, papers taped on the wall, sock drawers and give them to people to look at. To say this is me somehow please understand. Please see this, it is what inside I look like. This is just a collection I felt worth sharing. As the days get warmer I open my window and I listen to this playlist and think of home, wherever that may be.
Here is the mood board for this month. What I like most of all about this one is it has a kind of faded color scheme amongst its blues and greens. It is like the fog that settles over the surface of mirrors or grapes in the grocery store.
Next Friday my Paid newsletter comes out where we will finish our bookclub book Happy Hour, look at some poetry, and other fun things… You can subscribe now for 5$ or get a free trial week and then cancel it once it ends. I support you either way.
If not, don’t worry about it. We’ll see each other somewhere groovy soon.
That’s all this month! If you enjoyed the little conversation we had let me know! Save, share, and tag @chloeinletters
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Here’s to Starbucks Fridays, the homes we had, and the homes we made