.journal 2001.06.20
Can I go home now?

Now listening to: Delerium, Reflections II
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Lost Souls; George Stephanopoulos, All Too Human
Now playing: Crazy Taxi (Dreamcast)

You know, if you had told me I would actually miss my room like I am right now before the fire happened, I would have told you that you were crazy.

When I was younger, the walls of my room were painted yellow, I'm guessing simply because it was my mother's favourite colour. But in the early 1980's, my father had the idea to simply put wood paneling everywhere in the house, including my room. His rationale was that the paneling never really needed cleaning, and this way he wouldn't have to take time out every year to repaint the house. Of course, the paneling did need cleaning, it's just that the cleaning never got done. Our house, and my room, was just so much the uglier for it.

Then there was the carpet. I'm not sure what colour the carpet was supposed to be; it looked kind of pinkish when the sun shone on it, but in room lighting it looked almost brown. Whatever it was, it was hardly what I would call attractive. It also didn't help that right near the centre of the carpet there was a big, black, dark spot from when I'd accidentally dropped gum on it when I was younger.

Of course, because my father is notoriously tight on money (not that such behaviour in and of itself is such a bad thing, but my father takes it to extremes), it took me forever to get a proper bed. My father's idea of a bed was to nail a couple of two-by-sixes to a wall, lay a sheet of plywood on top, then a bunk mattress on top of that. It wasn't until a few years ago that I finally had enough and bought a proper bed with my own money, although I still used the bunk mattress out of force of habit until it finally became so unbearable that I bought a new twin-size mattress to properly fit my bed. That mattress is now in the trash, of course, because it got so water-soaked as a result of the fire that it was permanently damaged. (Though not before it protected my songwriting materials in the drawers underneath from the water, for which I will be eternally grateful.)

There was also the issue of my south-facing window. While most people normally actually, you know, buy windows to put in houses, my father just happened to stumble upon this big sheet of glass when he was younger, and decided to put it in the south wall of my room. I eventually put up big sheets of cardboard over the "window" to block out the light I just didn't want, but suffice it to say that such an amateurish construction did not exactly do wonders for ventilation or insulation.

Speaking of insulation, that was also something I hated in my room. The insulation in the outside walls of my room was blown styrofoam, and it had been set in place a long, long, long time ago. With time, the styrofoam had settled, and had become far from a perfect insulant.

Going outside the confines of my room a bit, I also have to take issue with my father's ideas for landscaping and energy conservation. We never had central air conditioning at the house (something I have cherished deeply here in the hotel in the past week of ninety-degree temperatures, especially as my computer's fan is busted), so my father's idea, both to help cool the house down and make it look more attractive, was to plant lots of trees around to increase the amount of shade the house got. Obviously my father does not understand the simple principles of a greenhouse, because that was just about the effect it had on the house. Mind you, there was one room air conditioner in the house - in his bedroom.

But it is back to the confines of my room that I must go to end this reminiscence, because that was perhaps the biggest complaint I had. My room seemed spacious enough when I was four years old, but as an adult, and an admitted packrat, the room was too small for me alone. You can imagine what fun it was to bring Jeff in there as well, on a summer day, with only a standing fan for cool while my computer was baking away. I had been planning this past spring to try to clear some space upstairs to store some of my less-frequently used stuff, but obviously now I'm glad that plan never came to fruition.

All things being equal, I wasn't exactly happy with my room. That was perhaps one of the key factors that at first convinced me I should continue in the workplace and not go back to school, because I could perhaps start making enough money to actually afford my own apartment. There were other issues of privacy and all, but while I love my family dearly, the living arrangements they provided me at the house were not what I could call ideal.

So why do I miss them so much?

It's been over a month now since the fire, and I have not been back to the house since the day of the fire when I was moving things out. This has mostly been an issue of circumstance, with me not being able to get back to the house, but other members of the family go there on a daily basis to tend to Rowan, who seems more comfortable staying on the grounds than she would probably be here at the hotel.

In looking at some photos of what is now left of our house after the construction company was done assessing the damage, I don't know whether or not I'm ready to go back yet, but I'd kind of like to give it a shot. The longest I'd ever been away from home up until now had been seventeen days, for a writing and drawing workshop I did my sophomore year in private school. Every time I drive close to that neighbourhood now, I do kind of get chills, thinking about how I'm on the most familiar ground in the world I know and yet it's not "my home turf" anymore. I'd just like to have the opportunity to go back, but I can't seem to make it.

And I think it is that struggle to get back to the house that just typifies something that it's taken me until very recently to realize, and that's that I haven't been looking out for myself enough in this whole situation.

I've spoken before about the needs each of us have and how we have to look out for ourselves first, another important lesson from The Artist's Way. But I guess it's been real easy for me to look at things and go, "Oh, I lost a lot less in the fire than anyone else did, so I don't have any right at all to complain." But you know what? I do have a right to complain, and right now I am really, really hurting. That's not to diminish the hurt the rest of the family is feeling right now, but the problem is I've been diminishing my own hurt in my own mind to try to rationalize things, and that is just as bad.

I put on a damn convincing front. As father and I were making the first run through the house to pull things we needed back here at the hotel room and didn't want to pass through Service Master, I joined in on the gallows humour my father was exchanging first with the builders and then with the insurance people. Hours removed from the fire at that point, I guess maybe it was a defense mechanism from the shock. And as the days have turned into weeks here in the hotel, I've just clammed up whenever something has gone wrong for me. Recently I put in almost a solid week of nothing but working on this one creative project for a couple of my friends, pouring my very essence into it and cutting myself off from the rest of the world. (And not updating this site as often as I should, sorry.) But I've been neglecting my own needs, and not letting anyone else around me know about that.

Since I don't have a full wall separating me from the downstairs living room, I can hear pretty much every conversation that goes on down there. (Not to mention the TV; a few days ago I was rudely awoken to my mother blasting "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space" from Little Shop of Horrors.) And I've heard them talking about me and how I've acted in the midst of all this chaos, using words like "brave" and "noble."

But you know what? I'm not brave. Deep down, I am a god damned chickenshit about all that is going on around me, and I think I've got damn good reason to feel that way. Nothing in my life is secure anymore. Every night before I go to bed I turn off this computer, and watching the desktop disappear from my monitor I wonder if it's still going to be there when I wake up in the morning. I still wonder if I am going to be here to wake up in the morning. And that scares the life out of me.

And it's not just the house that has me shaken up, either. A week from this coming Monday, I am about to step into a college classroom for the first time in six years, and a public institution of learning for the first time since I was nine years old. People keep telling me that I have the perfect mindset for college and the environment around it, but this is a whole new world for me. Am I still going to have the brainpower to achieve the same high quality work I did when I was younger? Will I be able to balance academic requirements, part-time work for my father and my social life? And will the people at school be understanding of someone as admittedly strange, unusual and off-the-wall as I am?

What hurts most, though, is that I don't have any of my usual circle of friends to turn to. L., C. and J. are all going through some serious problems of their own, and have been fleetingly accessible at best, totally absent at worst, this past month. Jeff has been visting more than usual, for which I am eternally grateful, but at this point Jeff has integrated himself into the Shannon family to the point that he's more of a brother to me than anything, and talking with family just isn't the same as talking with friends. And I haven't been able to talk with my friends about all of this, just because of their scarcity online, and that really hurts. I realize and respect all it is that they're going through and that they'd be here for me if they could, but there are times when I just want to break down in tears and go, "I need you right now, more than anything."

That's perhaps what is worst about my life right now, is this lack of certainty. At least I know when I'll be starting college, so that's at least somewhat tangible. Owing to inclimate weather and some other things going on that I haven't the foggiest clue about, reconstruction of my house hasn't even started yet, and father was telling me that our insurance company have sometimes had to put people up at hotels for two years while their houses were being rebuilt. I didn't want to be here when I started full-time at school in the fall, I certainly don't want to think that I'll still be here when I graduate. And none of my friends has the slightest idea of when they will be more accessible for me.

There was a day when no matter how bad I thought my life was, I could still lie down on the uncomfortable mattress in my room, sweltering away, looking at the ugly paneling all around me and say, "Well, at least I know this will be here for me when I wake up." Now I don't have that. I don't have anything I can really hold on to anymore. My world makes no sense, and I don't even know where to begin to look to find clarity in my life again, to get rid of all this confusion and replace it with just the slightest sense of security. But I've got to find something soon, because I know I can't continue to live like this.

Everyone take care and be well, and I will see you all again soon, just maybe not as soon as I'd like. Right now I kind of need to take care of myself a whole lot more than I have been.

- Sean