This post is for the July 2019 Carnival of Aces, on the topic of “Home.”
CW: contains references to domestic abuse, alcoholism, and sexual assault.
I have never lived in a place where I felt truly safe, comfortable, welcome, and like I really belong, all at the same time.
Layers upon layers of casual tragedy weigh down the air in the house I live in now, the legacy of traumas not my own lingering, and the floorboards creak as I step delicately through them. Cracked and patched again countless times, the walls of this house still stand, sinking slowly into the ground, shielding me from the worst of the sun’s rage.
I’ve always understood this as a temporary arrangement, a less-than-ideal choice among several other unhappy options. Something is always broken, and usually several somethings, but even so, I’m lucky to have this.
The situation is not entirely stable, though for now it seems to have stabilized. Several times I have been worried about being kicked out, or felt so frustrated with my living conditions that I have almost, but not quite, come to the point of starting to search for another place.
But where else would I go?
My social safety net, such as it is, is full of poison. It isn’t worth it to completely cut ties, but my blood-family barely knows me, and my mother’s devastatingly clueless response to my distress about living here was to suggest that I move back in with my father, the abusive alcoholic narcissist who thinks people like me (asexual people) should be… well. Something so awful that I’ve been accused me of making it up. If you don’t know what goes in that blank already, then perhaps you don’t want to learn.
Growing up, I had so little privacy that I literally slept in my closet, because my parents took off my bedroom door after I used the lock, and then when that was removed, my furniture pushed up against it, to protect myself. I wonder if it’s possible to develop an actual sense of safety and security after experiencing something like that. Because of that experience, I hate open doors, and always situate my desk so that no one can sneak up behind me and peer over my shoulder at my screen when I am at my computer.
Now, I live with my queerplatonic partner, in the house that she grew up in because it was financially convenient, sharing space with all of the unfamiliar ghosts already inhabiting this place. She never seemed to understand very well, until recently, why I have always felt such unease about this place. But the past is palpable, here, and it’s easy to sink into the soft depression that years of neglect have worn into this place.
I feel like an outsider in my own home. I have no sense of belonging in this place, and even less of a sense of ownership than when I was just renting crappy apartments. I have little feeling of control over the situation, even just to fix things, because first of all, I usually don’t know how, lack the money for it, or physically don’t have the ability to do it; and secondly, when I have tried to participate in plans for remodeling the house before, some of the family members who used to live in this house have gotten mad at me for it. They still have a lot of attachment to the way things used to be and don’t want to change anything, and get defensive when they see how I’ve arranged things to suit me better.
What was worse, they really didn’t know what to make of my relationship with my partner. Because we are so outside of the relationship norms that they expected, they were quite dismissive of me when we first moved here. It felt like they were treating me like a tenant who would be going away in short order, rather than someone whose comfort level with the house and the situation in general really mattered all that much. I think they assumed that C was about to break up with me at the time, because we were going through so much stress from moving into this mess of a place that we were fighting a lot. It was probably a reasonable assumption, but it still hurt.
Gradually, though, their attitudes have shifted, and now they do consider me to be a part of the family too. They threw me a party for my 30th birthday a while back, and that was lovely, although usually I prefer to be a bit more low-key about celebrating, so I’ve declined to do it again. I feel less unmoored and isolated now that I have that kind of inclusive support from them, but because it’s based on an assumption about my relationship with C, it unfortunately still does feel conditional. If we ever broke up—or, hell, if we ever just tried to explain what “queerplatonic” means to them—I would fully expect my relationship with them to diminish or disappear entirely.
I’ve also found it difficult to make friends in this area. Not living in a city leaves me far more isolated than I would prefer, and it’s difficult to build up a support network that way. There is no ace meetup group here, and my attempts to start one went nowhere. So I’ve only really managed to make some casual acquaintances during the time I’ve been living here. People in my age group from this area seem to be either too busy working to put much effort into new friendships, or they move away, because there’s not much here for them either.
Despite all this, I’ve grown comfortable here. The mountains are beautiful, and the sunsets too. There are lots of trees and wildflowers. The house has improved enough now that I can get my basic needs met, for the most part, without too much inconvenience. It’s old and has a lot of problems, cobbled together haphazardly as it has been over the past century, but I respect that it’s still standing after so long. Outside of the occasional cricket invasion—and the lizards that have recently moved in have been taking care of that lately—it’s quiet and generally peaceful. It’s pretty okay.
And that’s the trap, C says. It’s too easy to just settle for this, and that’s not what either one of us wants. We both agree that moving here was a mistake.
So we’re going to move out, and if we can, probably sometime within the next year.
I don’t know where we’re going. I don’t know how soon we’re going. I don’t even know if we’re going together. I’ll have to start job-hunting again and I really don’t want to. But I don’t want to stay here forever. So as hard as it’s going to be, I’ll have to do it.
My problem now is that I can’t even imagine any place that I would want to live. Not any real places, anyway. I have no particular desire to live in any given place, because what I am looking for in a home is, I suppose, not about a place at all. Rather, it’s about people. I want to move somewhere with a welcoming, inclusive, supportive community, ideally within walking distance. I don’t want to move somewhere and just be completely isolated again, especially if I end up moving alone.
Why is it that that feels completely unrealistic?