The Pull Home
Lili Galea (RMIT University, Australia)
Firstly, I love you. More than anything. But I’ve always felt a strong pull home.
The mossy shingles overlapping like fish scales, worn weatherboard peeling, a creaking porch with a warm light beckoning you in. I used to spend days wandering the halls, following the threadbare tread in the carpet like a path through long grass. I’d lounge on the chaise, watching the world through the large bay windows longingly.
I know I’ve never really talked about my home with you. I was only allowed out on rare occasions, mostly for school. Those days were sacrosanct. I’d savour every moment of sweet, clean air, the feeling of the breeze lifting me up and up until it was time to return. The other children didn’t talk to me, they knew better, and without the excuse of play-dates or kick-arounds in the park my day was over by three in the afternoon. Then it was back home.
It was always so cold in that house, Emily. I froze day and night, frost swirled in intricate patterns on every window, even on the sunniest of days. My breath was an explosive cloud of steam, the only sign of life in the house. More metaphorically, I felt denied any ounce of love or affection that I craved. It was like living with ghosts, living as a ghost, screaming into a void with no chance of even an echo in return. I hated it so very much, Emily.
And I told them that.
Mostly they’d just snigger. Look at Young Miss, they’d say, sharing side-long glances with one another. Wouldn’t last a day out there on her own. Other times they got hysteric, screaming that they would die without me, that I would be killing them if I left. But leave I did, and though it was hard I never looked back. Not once.
I travelled as far as I could, until I’ve ended up where I have. There were places before this beautiful, whacky apartment of ours. Lovely places filled with happiness and food and friends, but home found me. Home always found me. I thought here would be different. I’ve been here, with you, for so long …
I was living in a small village in the foothills of some mountain range when it first happened. I was walking back from the grocery store, as I had done countless times over the past year, when one of the silhouettes of the buildings on my street struck me with dread. The blood stopped in my veins, Emily. I swear, I could feel it sitting there, heavy. I walked over to the house, dropping my groceries on the footpath.
Home. Where just earlier that same day had been a small log cabin there were now the mossy shingles, the welcoming porch. A pull, from somewhere low in my guts, tugged hard and I remember I actually stumbled a half-step forward, closer to the door. I booked my flights that night.
It happened again. And again. Country towns, mega-cities, forests, deserts, it didn’t matter where I went eventually home would find me. Houses, apartment complexes, hotels, office blocks, all became peeling weatherboard, all sprouted a creaking porch, lamp swinging jauntily, mockingly, as its warm light beckoned me in. The pull would almost immediately follow, almost dragging me across roads, each time stronger than before.
I’ve spent countless nights thinking of what happened to those original buildings, disappearing wherever I went. What happens to the people inside, Emily?
They always said I’d be back, they said they’d die without me. Did I kill them? Is this their revenge? My punishment vis-à-vis Eternal Damnation.
The few tumblers of whiskey I’ve had have done nothing for the shake in my hands, forgive my writing … my mind wanders, as it has all day, since I saw it. You have to know what happens to me just in case.
Just in case.
The pull is stronger than it has ever been. Even as I write, I can feel it. Under my skin. A cord pulled tight, leading out my apartment and across the street where there used to be an ugly block of units.
It has turned on its lights, I can see them through the sheer curtains we picked out on your birthday. There are silhouettes, Emily, people moving behind the warped panes. The dispossessed? A trap? The lure above the Angler fish’s mighty maw?
The pull has never been this strong, Emily. I’m sorry to leave you, but home is calling. The front door is open and a welcoming light spills out on to the front porch.
Beckoning me in …
Lili Galea aspires to be a writer, publisher and all-round decent human being. Based in Melbourne, she is completing her Master of Writing and Publishing at RMIT where she edited and wrote for Vanishing Act, a spin-off of The Lifted Brow. She is currently working on her opus magnum and hopes it sees the light of day in the next decade or so.