After two months of wandering I realise that I’d do well to decide once and for all that I can only have one home. A place where I can be myself without having to talk about myself. Previous destinations in which I’ve sought refuge in the past few weeks: Den Haag, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Leuven, Antwerp…
A list that will keep on growing and whose nominees only have provisionality in common. The city as a transit zone, which if it carries me anywhere else certainly won’t lead me home.
For a long time I believed – at the moment I no longer know what I believe – that a person could also be a home. That everything surrounding that person was excess baggage and that the presence of that person was enough to turn any surroundings into a home. The concept of “home” could also be reduced to something material, like in a beer advert I remember from my youth, in which someone declares that wherever he lays his Stella is his home. More often than not, the protagonists in those adverts are male: testament to this is the slogan of another beer brand, which puts its faith in the words “men know why”. Even though I’m pretty knowledgable when it comes to beer, and I reckon I do know why as well, I’m glad that I’ve decided that my home from now on will just be a location.
More specifically the city in which I was born, grew up and thereafter spent a quarter of a century. The same city upon which I turned my back when I was still utterly convinced that a home need not consist of anything other than an individual. Now that I can no longer/am no longer allowed to call that person home, she calls to me again. The sirensong of her sirens, a terror threat of the uppermost level.
At home at the moment it’s difficult to tell the difference between protection and occupation and one of my fellow countrymen once wrote a poetry collection about the latter, with experimental typographical features. Recently I received the reproach that I should be less cryptic in my references when its already clear who or what I mean. So in this case, just for her: the poet’s name is Paul van Ostaijen, the city in question Brussels.
Home is everything in and around a pentagonal square where businesses of all types are being told to close their doors. Life can’t help but pass by more slowly; it’s going to grind to a halt whether we want it to or not. In the streets men walk shrouded in camoflage gear, which defeats its purpose by standing out against concrete, adverts and everydayness. Over their shoulders they carry weapons that are longer than a child’s arm and they drive around in trucks with anti-aircraft guns. The birds keep to their nests where it’s safer.
Meanwhile I’m two thousand kilometres further south in a city where I flick by accident onto a Belgian politician subtitled in Portuguese. And their news report about her. I can’t understand most of it so I change the channel and the inactivity no longer goes hand in hand with the same sense of guilt. Even in tragedy there’s something like acclimatisation, pain that becomes part of the daily routine.
So often everything is easier said than done.