The structure of a house
Whilst trying to cross a seemingly logical border that is hard for me to define, I’ll try to give insight as to why I want to take a deeper dive into what defines a house, decoding what language its inhabitants speak, and why this defined language is so complicated to me. What I find exciting is the wish to expand or illuminate the story of the house, as well as, the given function of each residing object – not forgetting why certain characters have their designated place in this mundane, private, engaging and tragic environment.
Envision an average square house – like the kind that a child would draw – that is raised by four beams stuck inside of a concrete surface. With this, the house has by default a partially subterranean level which is defined as the basement. I’d like for us to revisit to the basement later, but first we have to finish the structure. The surface’s shape depends on the shape of the intended house; in the following example I’ll present a plan on how to build a quadrangular house. These four sticks are connected with eight other sticks to create a three dimensional quadrangular shape. Four of these sticks are floating in the air horizontally resting on each raised beam, whilst the four other sticks are supporting from the bottom closer to the concrete surface.
I’d imagine this house that I’m talking about to be about 10 meters tall – sorry, but I’m really bad at estimating measurements, but I believe that this is a good average height for a house based on the sound of the number. So, if we only have one floor, the basement, that means that we would have a pretty tall roof, mostly because we don’t have a ceiling yet. We then take four new beams, whose edges have a slanted 90 degree angle, to raise two flanking triangles. The four beams on the top, that has the role of keeping the skeleton square, we layer with at least 10 new beams, that will later be known as the floor of the attic. Now we nail in some new panels to some new wood which is resten diagonally on the beam that conjoins the two triangles at the top of the triangle. These diagonal beams – which I’m unsure of the number of, but since we said 10 earlier, I’d say 10 again – we layer with a black rug that has a very gritty texture to it, and subsequently, we cover it with tiles – presumably in terracotta – from the bottom of the diagonal surface to the top of it.
I have never been a part of a process of building a house, but I’d imagine that it would be something like that. I might have glanced at the TV were a home is being renovated or a building is being built; whatever it was, it has probably – somehow subconsciously – given me insight into how a house is constructed. Yet, I don’t really get how they create the different floors inside, and it’s not something that I’m yearning to learn either, because mostly I enjoy mysteries in my everyday life.
So, now we have our house and it somehow has four floors in total; the basement, the first floor, the second floor and the attic. Honestly, I never really spent any quality time in the attic, mostly because I can barely fit in there, yet whenever I climbed up the ladder I always noticed a round window at the end of the dark and grey horizon of sawdust and baby clothes – clothes that are still around because my mother has high hopes that one day my own future children will wear them. The same goes for the basement; I never really spent any quality time there either, so, for me, the basement is the epitome of neglected fundamentals. I don’t know if ours smelled of mold or felt moist and damp, but maybe I’m just being frank and generic when having such associations. I know we had a lot of mice – because my mother always complained about them – but the last time I was there, the traps were still intact, so maybe I’m imagining these infiltrating rodents.
I like to think about my house as my backpack. If someone was to steal my backpack, I would be able to tell the police officers exactly what one could find inside of it at all times, because I packed my backpack myself. There’s a logic to the seemingly messy interior, or the heavy weight of books that is inside of it; currently Frankenstein and no others. A backpack can however be a metaphor for a lot of things – yes, luggage you guessed it! But I don’t want to write about luggage as a metaphor, I want to talk about the unreasonable logic of knowing that you’re carrying a lot of unnecessary things with you at all times, but doing nothing to prevent it from accumulating. Sometimes, for some reason, I can’t seem to turn the backpack upside down and clear it out. When I do, and I flip the backpack over again to see if everything got out, I can see that some objects refuse to leave this container. So why is it that when I turn this house on its head, and shake out all of the stuff inside; that some chairs are still cemented to the floor guarding their post like soldiers, yet something so heavy and immobile, like a hot water tank, fell out during this man-made earthquake? I think that it’s important to not pay attention to each detail per say, but to focus on the objects/events of significance.
Whenever I visit the home – which is quite often – not in person, but through memory, I can remember the tactility of certain things. I can remember that when I sit down to take a shit on our white toilet, that used to be orange, I have to remember to keep my thigh around 2 cm away from the oven that’s attached to the wall right next to the toilet, or else I’ll burn my thigh. It’s always really hot, but due to the sink flanking the toilet I’m cramped between these two bullies who can’t let me take a shit in peace without them torturing me. That’s what they are – they are bullies – they are personas. Inhabitants of this house that I no longer belong in, but that I still have an attachment to. I believe that each resident have their definite role in this fucked up high school theatre. Someone has to play the bully and someone has to play the nerd who shoots up the schoolyard. Someone has to play the girl who falls in love with the protagonist who only has eyes for his teacher, yet the teacher is in love with the janitor, but she doesn’t know that the janitor is obviously gay and unhappily married.
I use these objects to tell stories that I can’t tell with words – though I bet I could – but words are such empty containers for me. Once I wrote such a heavy word, that if I were to drop it on the floor, it probably would have made an «oomph» sound, and no one around would have dared to pick it up because they probably would break their backs doing it. So, instead I made a sink that was made out of its own soap. Suddenly I didn’t have to write a single word, because it already shouted so loudly back at me. Ah yes, speaking through images, how original, but I think that we’ve always used stories, both in myths, histories and religion, to explain a contemporary scene, and this is my contemporary scene, because it’s where I find myself. I am locked inside this house with no keys, so, in order to get out I have to make my own keys with their own magical potentials.
When I do go to the actual house, I can see that I am still very much there. No, not only because of the two hundred photographs of my stupid face on the wall, which gives the impression that I might have passed away already. I’m also there in the shape of cells and particles – like hair and skin – on the furniture. And I know this because of my dead cat. No, my dead cat didn’t tell me that my ghost wanders the home when I’m not there, but the hairs left behind by my cat tell a fact; that this house hasn’t been cleaned in close to two years time. This dead cat tells me that not only is he still there, but there is also a synthetic layer of me there, resting on these furnitures when I’m not there, from the last time I was there. When my father needs to switch a light bulb, I’m very much, and very little there to help him. But I’m not thinking of myself as a helper, nor a savior of any kind; I’m thinking of myself as an object that’s being moved from one place to another by someone other than myself. I’m thinking of myself as a chair that’s being moved and used without consent, although I’d probably lift my father up to change a lightbulb if we had no other non-stationary furniture around. As a person, I lack my own properties from time to time, so much that in fact, I resemble the chair in your bedroom who will gladly hold your coat, even if I’m holding twelve other coats.