letters from a place with no mailboxes

words sousan hammad

I find Mom’s house empty of life except for the squatter pigeons. Most of the windows are missing or broken, which must be how the pigeons got in. The air hangs heavy with dust and sadness. The floors are all covered with mounds of crusted pigeon shit and there are stacks of yellow foam mattresses, left behind, I assume, not by Sitti but by the people who lived here after Mom’s family left, or the people who lived here after them. Nothing here is from then: the wooden crate of empty beer bottles; the cups encrusted with dried up coffee; the corpse of a plant: objects that don’t belong to us, that don’t belong to the story. Maybe the story I’m looking for is not told by these objects but in those anonymous reaches that a person only finds when they aren’t actually looking? The mattresses may or may not have been witnesses to everyday life before the 1950s, but these are the same windows Mom looked out of when she was a kid, and the same walls that saw Sitti cook. 

I thought of fixing up the place and moving in, but you know how I am with waiting. The apartment I have now is around the corner from Mom’s and, well, it’s what I would call a charming shithole: high ceilings and stained glass windows, two of which are broken. From my bedroom window I can watch my neighbors sit on their plastic chairs, spitting pumpkin seeds or watching a dubbed Turkish soap opera from a far-away television. There’s something about the families who live in this community that gives me solace. I don’t know whether it’s the dysfunction of family life (which I’m starting to see more and more of) or the perpetual humming of my refrigerator, but I get the feeling of being close to home. I often think I should get a roommate to keep me company but (and I say this, I think, with self-consciousness) I’ve come to love living alone. Even the ants don’t bother me. Really, they just want to share my food; I see it as a small step toward the ideal of living in a community. People don’t live anonymous lives and everybody’s door is always open. It’s comforting to live in a place where nobody asks questions. In fact, the bare truth is this: as long it’s not another Israeli buying the place next door, the neighbors don’t give a shit if strangers stroll by.

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