the intimacy of a friend's house
how our childhood homes differ from our adult homes
About a week ago, I had a friend come over to my house. When we were kids, friends coming over was exciting but there’s something different about having friends round when you’re an adult. Perhaps it's because they would come over to your parents’ house and that house was just that, your parents. The decor, the way the couch was positioned in the living room and the type of houseplants you had dotted around weren’t an extension of you. But now, as an adult, your home probably says more about you than you do. It’s an intimate experience. You don’t let just anybody into your home. It’s sacred. It’s yours.
Having friends round now is like an extended invitation into my inner space, the space only certain people can access. Someone can learn so much about me just by looking around my living room and probably make some scarily accurate assumptions. What does the art on my walls say about me? The colour of my kettle or the type of bookshelf I’ve bought? What about a person with an abundance of houseplants? Maybe they care about living things, like to be nurturing, like to be needed. Or a person with a tidy living room, this person requires order, they hate mess, maybe grew up with a messy parent, a hoarder, or feels like their life can easily fall apart. Or a person whose bedroom door is always shut, they crave privacy, they need somewhere just for themselves, perhaps they felt overcrowded as a child, boundaries thrown to the side of the road.
And what can make homes even more intimate is the conversations that happen within them. At first, it’s pleasantries, “How have you been?”, “Your brother is how old now?!”, but as the day goes on, and especially as winter begins to fall and as dusk quickly settles, conversations start to deepen, subject matter narrows.
Feelings you’ve had bubbling at the surface begin to rise. This is a safe space. This is my friend’s home where she’s turned up the heating and offered me a hot drink and lit some candles and turned relaxing music up to just above hearing level so we feel comforted here. We feel supported here. We feel heard here.
Conversations that feel not quite real over messages or not quite enough over the phone can relax here and float above our heads in the quiet of a friend’s home. Over the calming steam of a cup of hot chocolate or lemon and ginger tea, we can talk about why I feel so overwhelmed sometimes or why I feel like life passes me by and although I have every urge in the world to make it mean something, nothing ever truly feels like it has any worth. And then she can remind me of all the things I’ve done and how silly I’m being and that I am exactly where I need to be right now. And then she can tell me how much life changes in an instant and suddenly you wake up and you’re nearly 30 and everything’s changed. Nothing looks the same and it’s terrifying. And I can’t offer her advice because I feel the exact same way but at least we know that we can feel terrified together over these steaming cups of hot chocolate and lemon and ginger tea.
The night starts to blanket the sky with dark clouds and the street lights begin to flicker for their evening shift and you know soon your friend will leave even though you wish this could last forever. It’s so much easier to talk about how scary life can be than to actually part ways and live it. It’s so much harder to come back afterwards, drenched in the hope that your friend feels the same way too.
Despite this, you hug at the train station and wave her off until her image is nothing but a smudge in the distance. You wait for her text that she got home safe and retire back to your home which feels a little emptier now that she’s gone. But you know the sunlight will warm up the living room in the morning and slowly life will start to feel ordinary again.
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