There have been few moments in my life where I felt as let down as I currently do. There have been days where it felt like the world was against me, I’ve had days where I felt like I couldn’t live any longer, I’ve had times where it took everything inside of me to not make an end to it.
But there have been very few moments in my life where I felt so let down by the people I hoped would be there to support me.
I’m browsing through Facebook pages and Airbnb to find somewhere to live. Because that’s the thing – when you’re kicked out of the place you live, you need to find a new one.
And here’s the thing: I don’t think I can. I don’t have the energy. I don’t want to.
My life was perfectly sorted out. I could stay in my grandpa’s place for at least another three months, and before those months would pass I had already wanted to leave. I was going to find a place in Gozo or Malta that I could afford with my freelance gigs and spend the winter in the warmer part of Europe.
I would spend another month in grandpa’s place, saying goodbye to his things, his neighbours, his life. I had at least another month in Haarlem to recover from the pain his death brought upon me and the turbulence of my life in the past months and even years.
Since I left home at seventeen, I haven’t had one place to call home. I’ve been around, everywhere and nowhere, with the freedom of owning little and wanting a lot, so I experienced it all. I shared my life with roommates in three different rooms in the university residence, then I moved to a walk-in closet with a bunk bed in Melbourne for six months. After that, I stayed in the Philippines for two months and another month on a Malaysian island.
Coming back from eight months around the world I started my Erasmus exchange in Lyon, where I left after two months of fighting severe psychotic depression. I came back to Malta and moved into a friend’s place in Swatar.
After a happy year or so, my flatmate (a doctor) kicked me out because I was “too depressed” saying it would be “better for me” to live elsewhere, and I moved into a townhouse in Pieta with two disgusting guys who barely spoke English and did not improve my mental health at all. Then I moved in with friends to a nice, affordable flat in Gzira, in a great location, which was probably the best living situation I’ve ever had.
I left because I got a traineeship in Brussels. That’s when I moved into what was probably the least tolerable living situation I’ve endured. I dealt with a dead mouse floating in the sink during a mouse infestation, we didn’t have heating nor electricity for almost three months in winter, my roommate was barely ever home but when she was she left everything far more disgusting than she found it, and my landlady was a certified lunatic who could have probably benefited a lot from the antipsychotics I’m on.
Not only was my housing situation in Brussels miserable, but the city itself is also grey and depressing, and while I’ve tried to list the highlights in my goodbye post, it simply isn’t the best. I would choose almost any other European capital city over Belgium’s.
All of this was forgiven and forgotten – even my lunatic landlady not giving back my deposit, as I could have expected – when I moved into grandpa’s place in Haarlem. For a week, in the middle of moving, I was 10 minutes away from his hospice and went to see him almost every day. He loved that I was staying in his place and told me to stay until it would be sold – something his heirs agreed with in writing.
Even after he passed, I felt like I was with him in his house. He spent the last twenty years of his life there, the years he was the most creative, the most outgoing, and dare I say the happiest. My grandpa was the epitome of a retirement well-spent.
And so I contently lived in his shadow, tread in his footsteps, and befriended his neighbouring community, who received me with the warmest welcome. I did my groceries in the same shitty supermarket as my grandpa had always done, I went to meet grandpa’s friends in the café he always went to, and I walked my dog in the places where I spent a big part of my childhood, staying with my grandpa.
Haarlem is an artist’s city, and I could feel how creativity flows in the streets of this historic gem. The street behind my grandpa’s house is filled with little shops in people’s living rooms, art collections and knick-knacks in their windows. There’s a community bar on someone’s porch that opens two afternoons per week. The city lives, and while I stayed there, so did grandpa.
To return from a trip to Berlin and find out that grandpa’s entire house had been emptied and everything had been dumped, including my own belongings, was like being stabbed in my face with a blunt knife.
For three months, I had built my routine around grandpa, I had followed the patterns of his daily life, and I felt closer to him than I will ever be from now on. I will never be as close to grandpa as I was then. He’s dead now.
The house is empty and eery and it looks like a person died there, in the worst possible way. It has no personality, no atmosphere, my grandpa’s artistic flair is gone. No books, no decorations, not a trace of life. It is no one’s house.
So the kind offers my blood relatives made, saying I can return there now that the photos for the sale have been taken, are meaningless. Broken promises, empty offers. The people I hoped I could trust the most were the ones who stormed into my refuge and wrecked it apart.
I was away for one week, and they forgot that I exist. Surrounded by my stuff, holding my belongings in their hands before throwing them out, they forgot I exist. My grandpa would have been furious.
I never cared about money or material things, so it was another stab with the same blunt knife when they offered to pay for everything they lost and figured that this would be enough of an apology. Paying for what they lost is the bare minimum, and yet nowhere close to sufficient.
The only things left for me to do are to write, feel, and grieve. There is no going back. There is no returning to the past. There is no fixing these shattered relationships.
So I write. The most important thing I inherited from him. The first and only person to reply to my blog posts within ten minutes after I posted them was my grandpa. Every time, without fail. Without him, I feel like I might as well not exist at all.