The house underneath mine has been empty for a long time. That was nice and quiet, with behind it a lovely large, wild garden on which I looked. Now new neighbors, a young couple with a child, have bought it from the social corporation. And they have grand plans.
I come home from shopping and see them standing in the front yard. My heartbeat speeds up, my breath stops, shoes filled up with lead and I change into Pinocchio. I put on a smile and walk on to my house. “Hello”, I said compulsory. They greet me kindly and then the mandatory chit-chat follows. I feel very uncomfortable but do not let it show. As soon as I close the front door behind me, I blow out a sigh. Pfff, it’s safe again.
Suddenly it completely dawns on me: my world is broken, disturbed, in tatters. I am visible to strangers again. I can not ignore them; I have to deal with these people. I have known my current neighbors for more than ten years and are therefore no longer alien, even very familiar. But I do not know these new people, do not know what they think, what they see or what they will think of me. I feel trapped by their presence. The others are the hell, said the French philosopher Sartre so eloquently pessimistic. After all, they are the ones who make you visible and will judge you. I know, in the long run, others can also be your heaven – every now and then.
Because these new neighbors are going to renovate and are going to make a huge expansion in their backyard, their presence also materially affects me. A large part of my view on green gardens will disappear and a big black roof will take its place. I experienced that earlier with the neighbors next to me. Suddenly every day I look out on a large lifeless, messy surface of asphalt. My oasis of peace is being replaced, bit by bit.
This has been going on for a while now. I live in a big city and there has been a lot of construction activity. Numerous individuals buy houses from the social housing corporations, make it their private property and do what they want without regard for others. I used to live in a nice working-class neighborhood, now it is becoming a luxury yuppy neighborhood. People become each other’s competitor, each claiming a piece of living environment for themselves. Well, then indeed, the others will become the hell.
The outside world
Little by little, the outside world is closing in on me, touches deeper into me, tighten itself more firmly around my body. To shut out the world it is no longer enough to close the door behind me. Construction noises are constantly penetrating walls, children’s sounds until late at night, and the TV’s murmurs mutter their programs from the left and right. Inevitably the outside world flows in.
Life in this neighborhood has always been well balanced. My home sufficiently shielded me from the outside world. It was my place where I could be myself, unseen or troubled by others. Lately, my house is more like a stay-in, a temporary shelter, waiting for me to relocate.
A home is a way of existence
A home is more than a house made of stones, glass and wood. It is more than a roof over your head. Ask people who have lost their homes due to money problems, natural disaster or war. They are displaced, lost their way and continuously waiting to start living again. Ask people in asylum centers. They do not live there, although they stay there for years. The people in their surrounding are not their neighbors, only foreign asylum seekers who are also waiting. I almost feel like an asylum seeker in my own home.
A home is a way of life
A home is a way of life, it creates a place in the world, your place in the world. A home is like a safe haven from where you can leave, from where you can enter the world with peace of mind, to work, school, the store or to your friends. It is a place where you can return safely, with the certainty that it is still there since you left. My home is an anchor for my existence, a landmark around which my world spans.
A home is a private space
A home is a private space, for you and only you. It makes you feel welcome, and gives the certainty that it protects you from the chaotic world. It is a space that offers you the room to be unseen. My home is an opportunity to relax, to hang out unabashed on the couch, to walk around in my bare ass, to dance like a moron without being judged.
A home is a self-expression
A home is also a self-expression, a business card, a friendly reception area where you can welcome your family, friends and neighbors into your home. My home is a part of myself, of who I am. The way I arranged it, the colors, the smells and the things here and there. Typically Rogiér, people say. This is me, here is where I live, this is my existence.
Everything is changed
For a long time my house really felt like a home. It was my safest place on earth, my anchor point, my being. Now there are new neighbors, a change in environment and suddenly everything is changed. I live in a lively city, I know, between people and new circumstances. The world is always in constant change. I know, and yet I feel disturbed, I have a huge need for peace, stability and order.
And my new neighbors? O well, they must also create their home of course, make their place their own. By renovating, shaping the stone, glass and wood according to their personal preferences. By letting their presence be noticed, by pushing their sounds into the air and displaying their personality to their neighborhood. By making a ridiculously large extension under my window in their garden! Agrrr… Living is and remains a difficult interaction between people, space and matter. That’s what they call life, I guess. Pfff …