Like a shadow, a proxy, a surrogate, I step into the lives of others while they are absent. I move about their homes disturbing only the dust. Every morning I eat breakfast at a table that is not my mother’s, in a house planted on lands to which I have nebulous connections… everyday I’m challenged to create reference points, markers that I fashion anew over and over.
Everyday I cook at their stoves, drink from their water jugs, wash in their bathrooms, sleep in their beds. Occasionally the fragments of other people’s day and night dreams seep from beneath the paint and peeling wallpaper to rest lightly on my shoulders – their presence a harbinger or gift, depending on how I’m willing to receive them.
But it’s my own disquieting dreams that wake me early – outside, an unfamiliar dawn chorus and light, disorientate. I look around … locate the door, the window …to re-member me, here, in this now.
Each place leaves something of itself with me …. its murmurings, the way it holds me, or doesn’t.
I’ve created a way to live that is a comfortable fit with the early synaptic patterning of my brain. The people I am connected to are literally out of reach. They’re out there, I know this, I have evidence of this, but I can’t see, touch, smell or hear them moving about making tea, doing their washing, the ordinary things of life. My connection to them is cellular, primal and deep, yet this form of separation resonates with something I can isolate, but not change. I wear longing close to my body, it’s a snug fit. I rely on its familiar hue and texture to provide comfort and guidance. It’s an inner or outer garment, depending on circumstance, fortitude and fortune. It slips between the two effortlessly, from shell to core and back again.
I’m reminded how, for so long, I lived like an incapacitated old person from moment to moment, equally grateful and burdened simply by being alive. Others seemed to have a narrative to drive or push them forward. I have only fragments of a story that read backwards like an ancient script on parchment fashioned from the secrets of my ancestors.