I wish this headline was clickbait but my life has the tendency to take turns I couldn’t make up even if I tried. This emotional word vomit is best enjoyed while listening to New Abundance by Omar Enfedaque:
For three months I felt what it was like to have my own place, my safe space, somewhere to call home. I moved into my grandpa’s place when he was dying, and he loved it so much that he let me stay even after he passed. He was there, with me, with all of his artworks, his sketches, his books and writings, his strange decoration and his writing room.
I put my books on his bookshelves, next to his. I put my own sheets on the bed but wore his t-shirts as pyjamas. I brought my coffee machine but kept his cups. We were one.
I loved having my own place. To be a 23-year-old girl living in a whole house without anyone else, no unbearable flatshares where friends become foes, no landlord sucking the blood out of me, no man disturbing the quiet and calm. A place where all the messes are mine, where my grandpa lives on in his drawings and used furniture, where days of doing nothing feel like the rest I deserved, not a waste of time and space.
Where my dog’s fur decorates the corners of every room, where I am safe from the world and its never-ending chaos, its eternal crises, its ways of turning naïve souls bitter, to be home in a place where I can breathe, a home that isn’t mine but fits me the way a mother’s red heels fit her 4-year-old daughter.
I closed the curtains at night, I made coffee in the morning. I took my dog out, I did my groceries, I put down my address for packages and received them in the door that welcomed me for twenty years, where I would enter grandpa’s space and where I knew someone cared about me and what I did, where someone understood what words mean to me and what I do when I write. I befriended the neighbours, the way my grandpa did twenty years ago, and I was welcomed. I felt at home.
I wasn’t happy. I won’t be happy for a long time. I won’t be happy as long as he isn’t here, as a solid rock in my chaotic life, as the reason I write, as the person I can always count on to want the best for me and to make it happen. But I was comfortable. I was content. I was at peace, thanks to his place and his energy, and peace in my mind is rare.
It would have lasted until we would sell the house. Grandpa has two children who haven't managed their finances well, and a granddaughter who cannot get a mortgage yet. Grandpa’s house isn’t a safe space, it’s not a place to come home, it’s not even grandpa’s house anymore; it’s an asset, and it needs to be sold.
While I resist, I know I will need to move out one day. But I know I still have three months. Even if the house is sold today, it will take three months before we have to give up the house. I will have three months to take my stuff, to take grandpa’s stuff, to empty it, to say goodbye to grandpa and his neighbours who welcomed me like family. I have time.
8 September. I leave for a conference in Berlin. I’ll be away for a week and a bit, and a photographer will come to take photos of the house. It needs to be clean and emptier. My mum and uncle will take grandpa’s stuff, the decoration in the living room, the things that make the house look old. But I will come back, and I will stay. At least three months.
18 September. I am exhausted. Every day in Berlin was spent socialising, being around new people, presenting myself like I am a normal person who functions normally and doesn’t have a mental disorder and a dead grandpa and an insane family. It was intense, not only the people but the programme, and I am exhausted.
I arrive on Amsterdam Central after a short night on an old night train. It’s 6.30 am. It has stormed all night, from the second we left Berlin until now. The train to Haarlem, my grandpa’s city, leaves from platform 1. I need to pass through an uncovered part of the station and I will be soaked if I do. I decide to wait it out.
I call my mum and ask her if I can go to her place instead. Yes, she tells me. There is nothing left in grandpa’s house in Haarlem. Not only his belongings are gone – mine are, too. None of my stuff is there anymore.
I am too tired. Too tired to process it, to respond, to be angry. I head towards my hometown and my mum picks me up from the train station.
When we get home, my belongings are piled up in the guest room. I’ve never lived in this house, it isn’t mine, it is my mum’s house. I ask where my suit is, the suit I bought in Italy in April, the teal satin suit that I bought six months ago for my graduation in two weeks, for big events, the suit I knew I wanted when I saw it in the window, that fits me like it was made for my body, the suit that was meant to represent everything I can achieve when I believe in myself, when I wear what I look good in, when I dress the way I want to be spoken to. It’s the suit that someone bought for me, placing so much faith in the fact that I will do big things, I will be taken seriously, and I will look good doing so. Someone who didn’t have to do anything for me yet chose to buy me this suit because they care.
The suit is gone. It isn’t here, with my other clothes. It isn’t in grandpa’s house. It isn’t with my uncle.
Grandpa’s house is empty. I saw it yesterday. There is nothing left. No soul, no energy, no grandpa. They took everything. They threw things away. A full suitcase is missing. My things are gone.
I leave for a week and I come back without a place to live and without my belongings.
I write: Grief feels like coming home. Like all the sadness I’ve felt had a reason all along. The weight I’ve carried with me since I was a child has a place now. My suffering has cause.
I moved into grandpa’s house the day he died. He is still with me, as long as I stay with him. I’ll stay with him forever.
That’s now how this works, reality tells me, while banging on the door. His house has value, his children need money. I stick around, saying I’ll slowly get rid of his belongings and clean so we can start selling the house. I don’t. As long as I am here, we’re together.
But when I come back, the house is empty, his soul is gone. The adults talk about styling, documents, potential buyers. I do not care. My grandpa is gone.
Grief feels like coming home to an empty house that once belonged to the person I loved. Who raised me better than he raised his own children. I feel robbed of everything that wasn’t mine to begin with.
They kicked me out of the house and they lost my stuff. They lost my suit. The suit. The one I bought knowing I would wear it to my graduation. It’s gone.
I never understood that life is meant to be comfortable until I lived in grandpa’s house. That most people seek comfort: a stable job, a reliable partner, a great friend group, routine. A place to call home. Structure.
All I ever want to do is leave. Leave my hometown, leave my boyfriend, leave the party, leave my job, leave my mind. But I have become tired of leaving. I am tired of seeking refuge and trusting people who do not have my back.
And when I found myself calling my grandpa’s place home, where I kept him alive, where I wrote and danced and cried and laughed, where I felt like I could be myself without having to explain anything to anyone – all our belongings were taken, and many of them were lost.
I once again have nowhere to call home.
Who needs an enemy when you have your own family?