Journal » Trout 17 » The Now And The Maybe [Helen Rickerby]
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The now and the maybe

Helen Rickerby


Every time you step across the threshold it’s the same. You’re stepping into more than just a house. You’re seeing not just what’s here, but what could be – a palimpsest of the now and the maybe. You consider where the couch will go, the TV, the table; where he will sit, where you will sit, in the evenings, on weekend mornings; whether your middays will be sunny, your afternoons. What about your bookcases? Will they fit? Will you be able to display the books you want to show off, and will there be room in the second bedroom to stow the ones you’d rather hide. Is there a second bedroom? Do you need one? Will you have children here? Will you be happy here? Who will you be here?


All going well, by now you resent the other people who are trudging through what you already consider to be your home. You and he have exchanged wide eyes, whispers, small high noises in the backs of your throats. You have seen your future, and these people are barging through it, through your possible life, who you will be here, how you will live here, the happiness you will have here. You refuse to believe it simply cannot be so, that you need more than permission; that you need to tender to the gods of housing; that you can be denied this life with no recourse to the appeal court of lost homes, lost futures.


Or, it might be that you’re seeing visions of a different kind of future. The sun never makes it through these windows. Despite the new paint, you know it will be damp; all winter you will try to beat the mould, but you will lose. In this room, you will never settle, you will never rest easy. It will be dark all day, you will want to go out, but you lack the energy. You and he will fight. The cupboards will be crammed, you will have to give away too many of your books. Your friends won’t admit it to you, but you will know they avoid visiting you.


From one alternative future to the other, you drive to three or even more each Sunday. And in each house you leave a little piece of yourself, a little clipping, that stays there, takes root, grows out their days in that future, those futures that could have been yours. Part of you is still sitting, reading a book, in the window seat in the lounge of the first house you ever put a tender on, the first one you ever lost.


When I walked into this house, I felt like I’d stepped into heaven; heaven on the top of a cliff looking out over the city and the harbour, and beyond to the mountains. Heaven at the height of birds’ flight, almost cloud height. The life I would live here would clearly involve calmness, and considerable amounts of time staring at the sea. ‘I want it,’ I whispered to him, meaning not simply ‘I want to buy this house,’ but, ‘I want to be calm and happy. I want to be light and airy. I want to be the clear-headed self, the perfect self that I feel certain I will be here. I want this house to make my future perfect.’


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© Copyright 2012 Helen Rickerby & Trout.