The man walked outside, wielding the wooden stake, and he drove it down, thrusting deep into the end of the driveway amongst the green grass hairs, and he pulled out a hammer, and with each whack, the ‘For Sale’ sign pierced deeper, deeper into the soil. I stood at the window watching this, my Mum standing beside me, my little brother sat on the sofa, his eyes hooked into yet another game on FRIV. The air smelt of Mum’s lavender-scented candle, and the man outside was having a light-hearted conversation with the estate agent standing next to him. They gave us a thumbs up, and I almost responded with my middle finger.
My heart knew just how much it could be thrumming right now, but it didn’t want to; right now it was still, silent, numb. Just waiting for the moment when it could no longer bear it.
Mum said: ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’
I put my arm around her. Josh looked up from his game.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘This house isn’t gonna go, I just know it.’
Silence descended once again. I looked at Mum, and she aimed her face at the floor. I removed my hand from her shoulder, and she walked with her head down into the kitchen.
‘What’s she getting all emotional about?’ Josh said.
The phrase ‘shut up’ was blocked by my lips. There grew a build-up of cuss words and expletives and screaming – lots of screaming – from inside my mouth. I turned and walked out the living room, flew up the stairs and into my bedroom.
The next morning my eyes snapped open. I saw the green-and-blue tartan curtains. I closed my eyes again as the world blurred back out of focus. I saw the rest of my bedroom from behind my eyes. The turquoise walls, the framed Sunflowers print hung above my desk from beside my bed… my heart became frozen, unresponsive. I breathed in, held it, and then puffed out all the tension from inside me, piled up within my arms like iron girders in a bin bag.
Memories of yesterday dropped into my mind like iodine solution, spreading across my mind’s eye, turning purple. I rubbed my hands across my eyes.
I know where to go, I thought.
I took a bus into Reading, passing vistas of the Chilterns, with green and yellow fields à la Postman Pat, over the chalk white structure of Reading Bridge, before finally reaching the station.
How much longer was this place gonna be my hometown? It was an ugly, shopping-obsessed London wannabe, but I loved it; it was where I had lived all my life (or just outside of it anyway), and so I could not help but see it with rose tinted glasses.
I went in and booked my ticket, catching the next train to London Paddington.
Passing St. Paul’s, I kept my eyes fixed downwards at the pavement, somewhere in the near distance. Then when I recognised the grey pedestrianised steps of Peter’s Hill, I looked up, and saw the Millennium Bridge. And then I saw it. That one glorious, majestic brick structure rising up from out of the South Bank. And all I had to do was cross the bridge, and I would be at my second home: The Tate Modern.
When things are getting too confusing, this is where I go to make sense of my thoughts. When words fail me, this is where I go to help my mind speak. I come in thinking the world is terrifying, and I come out thinking the world is extraordinary.
As I went inside, words still failed me, but in the most beautiful way. As I walked for the first time into the Switch House extension, and my heart gleefully plunged into the thoughts and ideas and emotions of Louise Bourgeois’ work, I reminded myself that this place will always be a second home to me. I looked up at the Couples sculpture, and the tears began to sting me.
It’s where I go to escape when the world gets too much, just like nature walks are when I feel humanity is letting me down.
It’s where I go to feel when I’m tired of feeling numb, unsafe, or unloved.
It’s where I go to remind myself that I am not alone, and that there is always some place where I can feel unjudged; where I can feel like myself; where, within the confinement of these four walls, I feel so free.