I wrote in my previous installment of “With black ink” that perhaps it was impossible for us to pin down what and where home was. From so much migrating, seeking to escape from adversity here and there, over and over again, it is true that the idea of home has been dissolving over the years, to the point of preferring to cling to the conviction of its non-existence.
On second thought, I think there are possible definitions for home.
Let’s say, for example, that home could be the place where you don’t need to explain who you are, nor defend or protect yourself; It is the comfortable sofa on which you can always throw yourself for as many hours as you want without anyone finding it strange. You are not, above all, a stranger in the home. You know every smell and flavor and those around you know even your most intimate oozes and if they don’t know them, that doesn’t worry them at all, you’re just one among the others. They shrug their shoulders at what they don’t understand about you, knowing how useless it is to pretend to know someone completely, not even yourself. Home is the space and time of calm existence within oneself and with others. There you can let yourself go, without fear.
It seems like a utopia. And since utopia is only utopia if we insist on pursuing it, or on wishing for it, at least; I have gone looking for her—in dreams and on planes. I thought once that in Iceland I could find it. An island, distant, incomprehensible to me, I incomprehensible to her. Neither my history nor that of my ancestors, nor my language or my culture, nor my neuroses, and even less so my body, apparently naturally adapted to the salt of the oceans and the sun of the tropics, promise an easy insertion into Icelandic life. . I haven’t even tried. I got to know its volcanoes, the ferocity of its winds attacking the cliffs, the vastness of the basalt fields, the persistent smell of sulfur, the quiet navigation of its icebergs, all the silence, the endless days of summer. As infinite as those days I discovered myself, but not even the peace I found then managed to convince me: instead of settling in Iceland, I have chosen to stay with the dream of Iceland as a home.
Iceland, as the imaginary place where patience was slowly inculcated in me by the ice and the winds, whose gusts would forever freeze the traces of all imagined destinations, rendering them impassable, and my dead would blend in with the multitude of elves and gnomes, making his own life, forgetting me at last. An island recounted by millenary sagas, as distant from mangoes and boleros as it is from tribunes, laws and surveys, and from nostalgia for both war and peace. There where to see my flesh, for centuries sculpted in fear, expand hungry for its true home, in the total security that only ignorance of the place to which it has ended up can offer; her alone, my flesh without fury or noise or voices, without the memory of past lovers, without her suffocating History. Alone I who am nothing more than my flesh, submerged in an eternity that was only mine, an eternity that could be infinite in its smallness. Immediate. There is no measurable time in a land where the crackling of fire in the crater of volcanoes, the rage of waters against the cliffs of fjords, and the eruption of geysers can forever delay the culmination of a second, or render infinitesimal the sensation of the hours, days, months, years. It would never matter then the state of my hair or the singed color or not of my flesh in contact with the vapors and the lava.
Remaining with the image of Iceland as the place that encloses what my imagination still perceives as home, but where I would never go to live, maintains it as utopia. And my idea of home as an unrealizable possibility. However, it has also led me to realize that I have been looking for home in the wrong place. It is not in the lava fields or wrapped in the sulfur of its waters. But neither in Paris, New York, Hartford, Salvador de Bahía, Berlin or Havana. Or my home has been in each and every one of these spaces at the same time; because there is, despite their differences, a common denominator, as far as my experience in them is concerned. I, my body and my flesh, have lived in them. Home is then in me, not in a precise place. When we discover this truth, we are a little freer, we breathe better.
You have to travel. Traveling is good for us. But we do it much better when we do not arrive in the city to which we escape loaded with the burden of existential expectations; Hoping to find in them the feeling of belonging that we cannot get in the place we are leaving. It will become easier for us to feel that we belong to our destiny, if we do not long for home to be waiting for us there. We carry the home inside.
I came to discover it through other trips. I didn’t take a plane or a boat. I did not need long walks. On the contrary, what I needed was to be still. It was not an easy task. Black women have a hard time stopping. But always a voice and an image come to our aid. I remembered my grandmother Cecilia sitting for hours on the balcony of our Havana apartment, mute and almost motionless, but with her eyes wide open. Only with maturity have I understood that my grandmother meditated—perhaps without herself being aware of it. They teach us to resist, to fight and solve the material needs of the family; not to be alone with oneself. As if only outside the borders of our body we could run wild. They prepare us to create and maintain what society has determined to be home, but not to find our own home, within ourselves. But it doesn’t matter anymore that my grandmother Cecilia didn’t know that she meditated and that she couldn’t, for that very reason, teach me how to do it. He still transmitted the experience to me and seeing it in my memory I found ways to procure the time and space to find myself in myself.
The words came to me from a little-known African-American writer, Marita Odette Bonner. From some room in Harlem, which I imagine dim but clean, small and infinite, my almost namesake invited us to sit quietly, without wasting energy on unnerving gestures, that nervous uncertainty that centuries of chains and lashes have left us as a balance. “Quiet, quiet. Like Buddha—who was as brown as I was—he sat completely comfortable, completely sure of himself, motionless and wise, a thousand years before the white man knew there was a difference between his feet and his hands. Apparently motionless, but what about inside? Silent. Calm (…) So you too, remain calm, still, with a smile, even very slight, in your eyes, so that life flows into you and does not pass [simplemente] through you.”
To find our true home, travel does take place. But it is not the journey that takes our body away, but the one we make towards the interior of ourselves. Travel the internal paths that make us discover the landscapes that make us up. Go sightseeing, open to the unknown, which is all we are and can’t imagine. Let’s turn off that radio. Let’s close WhatsApp. Let’s not get carried away —let’s try at least one night— by the supposedly irresistible soap opera we are following. Let’s abandon that program that doesn’t interest us at all, but from which we think we won’t be able to escape, because they insist on broadcasting it when they know that viewers have no better option to outwit boredom than to stay in front of the television. That is, we don’t have to do what they expect us to do. Let’s take back our time and dedicate it to what our body craves. Let us turn to the flesh, true guide. Pausing the noises, let us listen to what that flesh of ours desperately tries to tell us. We have worked a lot. We deserve to meet.