"SUMMER HOUSE" Published in SadMag Issue 34, 'Home'
Homemaking is a lengthy process. A slow, intentional practice of living within and being lived in. Of feeling full with company and its respective chaos, and then with emptiness, too. When you’re held by the ink-stained hands of someone who's already co-signed with someone else, you must negotiate the temporality of this tenancy.
So begins your reconstruction. In a demolition of what you thought you knew, you do away with the creature comforts of monogamy and redecorate to the liking of all the people you house. This will become the only hospitality you know how to give. As hostess, you dance in the chasm between overstaying your welcome and never fully unpacking. Resist the yearning to be more than this liminal thing, this vessel that is wood and glass and drywall and not quite a home, but a visitation space.
Your body: a summer house with good bones and unreliable heat.
You become accustomed to constant corporeal renovation until you first palm the keys of a person who turns all your lights on and opens all your windows. The air shifts. You slip into a kitchen rhythm of stepping around each other while you cook and kiss, and she’ll spend the night only to go home in the morning to another body she calls home. For a while, this is easy. The recognition that neither of you have permanent residency in each other’s hearts leaves room to breathe, and every exhalation shows you how sweet this act of playing house can be.
Inevitably, you find a home in the way she loves you, how she makes you feel nothing like a summer house at all, but a person, but a place that can only be described by body heat. Her radius, your sanctuary. This love will refurbish, redecorate, paint your walls a new favourite colour. You’ll buy her a toothbrush and keep a spare hair tie in the medicine cabinet. You offer your body as asylum. You let her shower alone while you sit in the living room, writing poetry about your other lover who’s out with her other lover. You try not to write about jealousy.
Pretend you don’t notice when she kisses you and her lips taste like a flavour of chapstick you know she doesn’t own. Fall asleep next to her and wonder if she lays on the chest of her other lovers the same way she falls onto yours, breathes you in, and looks up at you to say she’s worried she’ll hurt you with an implied impermanence. In the same breath, it’s said that sometimes, being with you feels like home. Fall asleep convincing yourself that this means you’re more than a wooden frame and she’ll wake you because she can’t stay, which isn’t the same as saying she won’t stay, and in this, you’ll imagine up ugly truths and false hopes about the real home you know she’ll return to that night.
So you contend with loving someone who will never fully be yours; you hang up portraits with loose nails and weak tape, throw your space together in a semblance of the home you see in her despite all this. You learn to share well, to be a space that is malleable, to rearrange your furniture to accommodate theirs. As a method of survival, you pretend like this isn’t the truth of your circumstance.
Eventually, the days shorten, silence falls. The temperature drops and the rug soaks up all sound. The leaves brown to the harsh realization that a summer house is a place you escape to, but never the place where you raise your children. You take a vacant weekend to grieve the already-accounted-for holidays that will leave the house empty. You spread out snacks for the obsequies of the New Years decorations that will not hang from your walls. You dress in black for the cold Februaries you won’t wake up in her arms. You make bedfellows with the echo of your own quiet company.
Then, once this necessary grief is unwrapped from its boxes, you’ll make space to dance together alone in your living room. With time, the floorboards wear and the mattress deepens in the shape of the curves of your body next to hers. There are nights she spends away. This is a clause in the lease, the material definition of this residency; loving someone means letting other people love them too.
Still, the sun will rise the next morning with its same promise of pink indulgence. You will open your own windows to it and shake your welcome mat clean, and think, despite this limited permanence, for her I’d play house forever.