And now the house is empty. It’s just me here. And it’s a different empty to the times before, when the boys were off on tour or were away for a while, or even just for the day.
Some people call this a spooky house. I get why. It used to be part of the funeral home next door, it’s old - it first shows up on maps around 1832, when this street was the edge of a field - and yes, the cellar has got hooks on the ceiling. But I’ve only ever felt welcome here.
This house is rickety and the floorboards creak and the central heating can often sound like a monster waking up, or a monster being woken up by a really rubbish steel band. But whenever I come home and close that green door behind me, it's always accompanied by an audible sigh of relief. I stand in the hallway and take a breath, and in this old empty house, I feel safe.
Right now, I feel like for the first time, me and the house are getting to know one another. There are the noises I recognise, the clanking of radiators and of pipes cooling down, the muffled drip-drip of rain inside the chimneys, the moan of guttering against the brickwork, all noises the house makes on its own. And then add to that the pad of my feet on the stairs, the ticking of clocks, the pop of the loose floorboard outside my room, the slide and squeak of my shoes on the tiles, and there’s a communication of sorts. A call and response.
“I am here.”
This house makes me think differently about the whole idea of a house being yours, belonging to you. Because I belong to this house. (For now, at least.) The way everyone who’s lived here has belonged, in their own way. A while back I read a brilliant piece by Sarah Pinborough, about how maybe it’s we, the living, that haunt our houses, and it's stayed with me. I knew exactly what she meant.
“People don’t own houses. Houses own people and their memories. They hold lives for a while. They know secrets.”In the front room there’s still a map on the wall of the people who’ve lived here and the people they’ve known. It was drawn long before I moved in, but I am a part of it, my name written in black ink and connected to others with arcing lines. This city is not so big. I know most of the others on the map, even if only by name. The people whose names are on the wall come to visit still. Occasionally I’ll meet someone new and recognise their name before I realise they are a part of it, too, they are on the wall.
Soon, the house will be full again, and then there will be other things that are equally as good, just different. And I’m excited about that, too. Lazy Sundays watching Eighties films, and silly, made-up games. Nights spent screaming favourite songs and sitting in the back yard all moon-lit and stargaze-dizzy. The house takes on a different feel when it’s not just me. It wants to be fun, and to open itself up and let us into its spaces. It also quiets down, leaves it to other people to make the noises.
So I’m going to cherish this time right now. I’m going to use it to listen. To walk through rooms and lean against walls and run and slide down the hallway. And to whisper, to tell my stories, and see what this old, lovely, amazing house has to add.