9 lives

Published by: Mariana Serapicos

Published on: 29 Jul, 2021

A winning entry in the TogetherintheUK storytelling competition which tells the story of moving not just countries but the now familiar situation for so many of having to move from home to home within the UK.

This year I entered both my ninth year in the UK and my ninth house. I’m living an imposed nomadic life; an experience I share with many people my generation. Forget the property ladder, all we want is a room of one’s own.

 I grew too big, I think; my life expanded in ways I hadn’t plan for.  I hate that, I hate that women are meant to feel small, to become small, and to have small possessions by default. Our personalities are meant to fit a size 6, our voices are meant to live inside our heads. We are our own worse enemies, that’s what society would like us to think. No. Think big.

I arrived in this country with two suitcases and a rucksack. I remember almost being sent to Dublin at Heathrow airport when my fresh from the airplane accent could hardly pronounce the tube stop I had to head for. The tube doesn’t take you to many places in São Paulo, my hometown, and I was marvelled to see how the landscape changed all the way to Zone 6.

1- My new house had stairs, stairs! I had lived in flats all my life; São Paulo is built upwards – is like Brazilians are trying to reach the sky. My previous life had been flat, no steps; in London, my room was in the second floor. My arms ached when I reached the small square I was to call room. I had a single bed, I was used to that, that’s how it had been back home, living with my mum. 

2-I moved again in December and my cab fought the snow on a Friday night, charging me extra for the ride. I almost froze to death on the first night, I didn’t have any bedding – I shivered under the sheets. It was a three-bed flat without a living room; I used to dry my clothes on the radiators and my mum was worried about the humidity. I had a double bed and two housemates who became friends. 

3- I finally left the sticks and moved to zone three, to live in a house with no friends and a mouse. My room had a lock, the landlord was always about, my housemates changed on a weekly basis. I had dinner with my mum most nights, chatting to her over Skype. I moved out in the speed of light; I arranged my few belongings in a couple of boxes and ‘ran’ for dear life. 

4- My new house could pass for a hostel, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends lived there, Australians, Argentines, teachers and actors. We’d shoot films in the bathroom, danced with the lamp and did yoga anywhere. The shower leaked in the kitchen, we didn’t dare go to the basement, we had a trampoline in the back garden. It was a weird time; it was a fun time. But our lease was up and the musical chairs that is the renting market in London started again.

5- ‘The dream house’ was the next one; we weren’t the most obvious fit, but somehow, we felt the four of us would work. We had parties, I had too much absinth, we’d go in each other’s rooms and talked about music and films.  This place had no leaks, no mice, no funny noises, the house was functional – it was a shame that we weren’t. Eventually the cracks that we could barely see in the beginning of the year became obvious to everyone. That group, in the shape that it was, couldn’t go on; we had to re-arrange our formation. 

6- I moved South of the river for the first time; I downgraded to a single bed, timing was bad, I finally had a boyfriend to share a bed with. My stuff was everywhere, it didn’t fit in the bedroom. ‘I was taking up space,’ said my housemate – I had a chair. ‘Coming over here’ and placing my belongings on freshly clean carpets, that was me.

7- London favourites monogamy, it’s much cheaper to share a room with someone. I too jumped on that boat. It came naturally to me, living with a boy, with my partner, my other half – whatever people call it. We had our space, I didn’t have to ask for permission, I didn’t have to check, we could just talk amongst ourselves. I didn’t have to be ‘on’ all the time, I could just be.

8- Then my partner bought a house, and I thought ‘that’s it, no more moving around.’ I could feel my shoulders drop, I would never have to put my things in a box, book a van or get bubble wrap. I could put nails on the wall, I would be able to actually decorate, put my prints on frames. It was ours; it was home.

But regardless of the work that was put into it, it didn’t work – not the house, but us. As the world fell apart, so did we, and I had to choose what things to keep. This continuous process involves forced spring cleans, trips to the charity shop, selling things online, binning old birthday cards.

9- As I noticed myself having to shrink, to make things fit, I realized how I can actually carry the biggest things within. I can inflate all of my possessions in an invisible way; they don’t take actual space. The family, the friends that I made, the memories, the drunk nights and park walks, dancing in the kitchen, because, why not? All of this lives within me. They have carried me all this time, and I them.

They are just a screen away, and elbow shake. Through all those moves, they were there, in all my homes – because that’s what they are. All those rooms morphed into something meaningful, because life is what you carry inside. The memories, the friends, the books I read; I carry them in my heart.

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