Tuesday, May 25, 2004

For the First Time

I can still remember my last night in South Africa. In the evening my closest friends came to have dinner at my house. My parents prepared my favourite foods and I can still hear the talk and laughter between everyone that was there. We celebrated the moments we had together and tried to forget that it would be the last time we were together for a long time to come. I distinctly remember looking at a clear sky filled with stars that promised to follow me wherever I go… and the sound of Eagle Eye Cherry singing “Save Tonight”. That night, I hid my head under my pink duvet, held onto my pillows and cried until I had no more tears to fall… I wasn’t scared of facing what was ahead of me, I was crying for what I was to be leaving behind.

Since the day I arrived in Madeira, I’ve been living under someone else’s roof. I’ve followed someone else’s rules and dreamt of the day where I could once again call a place “home”.

Candles, soft music and a nice, hot bubble bath. Those were the plans for my first night at my new apartment. I was to sink into bliss and thank God that I was finally home! So many nights I’d laid awake dreaming of this moment, it could be nothing short than perfect…

“Honey I’m home!”

I knew no one but the walls awaited me but I liked the sound so those were the first words I said as I stepped into my new “home”. I put on the CD that I’d been given that afternoon and changed into more casual clothes. It occurred to me that I still wanted to take my long hot bath, but the boxes that surrounded me scheduled the idea for another day. I started supper and began organising my things one by one. It seems like we clean our souls when we clean out our junk and I felt much lighter when I stared at two bags of trash. If only other things in life were that easy to get rid of!

My mood was at a peak as I ironed my uniform with my new iron on my new ironing board. Okay… so in a couple of weeks the novelty will wear off and I’ll once again consider ironing the worst of household chores. But in the meantime, I was enjoying trying out all the new things. The novelty in everything I did was both exhilarating and annoying… mostly because I hate reading instruction manuals!

It was when supper was ready that my spirits began to sink. Not ever being taught to make supper for just one person, there was plenty leftover. Of course this is an advantage for someone who would be taking lunch to work the next day, however, it was the lonely plate that made my soul start shrinking. I sat at my table for the first time; I ate my very first meal and listened with my heart to the music that was playing in the background. Deciding not to allow my spirits sink any further, I headed for the bathroom convinced that a hot shower would cure my mood.

I took off my clothes and stared at my reflection in the mirror. The face was familiar but I couldn’t make out its expression. It could’ve been fear or perhaps insecurity that I saw in the eyes but the aura somehow radiated more maturity and serenity than it usually did. A chill ran down my spine and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the bathroom that was colder than I was used to, or it had been from standing still for too long. I stepped into my bathtub for the first time and took my first shower.

All these things I did were for the first time in my new apartment. But instead of feeling at “home”, I’ve never felt so out of place. The thought made me feel smaller and smaller. Walking out the bathroom, my eyes searched the room for my cell phone. I desperately fought the desire to phone someone to talk me out my misery. Pride saved me from temptation but I knew that it would not save me from the tears that threatened to fall.

Needing something familiar to cling to, I opened my box of photographs and began to travel down memory lane. And so they fell… one by one, one after another the tears rolled down my face. I reminded myself that I was human and allowed myself to feel hurt, frustrated, scared, angry and a million and one other negative emotions that I’d been suppressing. I missed my dad; I wish that at the end of the corridor I’d find him sitting at his computer with a glass of whiskey in his hand ready to talk back my confidence. I wished that I could be back in my old room under my pink duvet and having nothing but school exams to worry about. Some say we spend nine months trying to get out into the world and the rest of our lives trying to go back in… laying in a foetal position on what would be my bed for the next few weeks, I wished that someone would tuck me in and kiss me goodnight.

Like most first times in life… my first night at my new apartment wasn’t what I expected it to be. I know that it will take some getting used to… I guess it just takes time to make any place into a home.

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