What home means to 'SWIM'
SWIM is not particularly sentimental about home. Home is just a building, a place where she goes to sleep, to eat, to watch TV and listen to music.
I suppose SWIM is fortunate enough to be able to call two places ‘home’. There’s the home where SWIM grew up: the place where her parents still live, the place where she knows that she is always welcome to go, the place that SWIM does go back to at least once a year. SWIM's mother still insists that this is her ‘real home’, she won’t accept that SWIM could possibly think of London as home.
SWIM's lived in London for eight years now and she's made a home of sorts with her partner, who she's also been with for eight years. They met a few weeks after SWIM arrived in the capital and embarked on a whirlwind romance, moving in with each-other almost immediately. They both had baggage though, skeletons in the closet if you like and they both used drugs to deal with the day-to-day situations that life threw at them.
SWIM was addicted to crack-cocaine for eight years and she thinks this is probably where her lack of sentimentality for home stems from. Home was the place where she went to take drugs, the place where (when she was in the throes of drug addiction), she wouldn’t leave for weeks on end. SWIM supposes at the time she did see home as a comfort, a shelter from the outside world that was much too daunting to even step into.
You can’t though, respect a place that you are using as a drug den. SWIMs home was basically a crack-house to her for those eight years, and no matter how hard she tries to forget she'll always have those memories. They’re etched on her brain, just as visible to SWIM as the scars on her arms. Home was the place where she would self-harm. She remembers so many times when her addiction grew out of control, too much for her to cope with, that she would sit on the sparse floor of their Islington council flat slicing her flesh to pieces with a razor-blade. The physical scars will never go and nor will the memories, although maybe in time, both will fade and become less prominent to her.
Gil Scott Heron, who was addicted to both heroin and crack-cocaine, wrote a song about his experiences called ‘Home is where the hatred is’. SWIM thinks there is some inherent truth in that title and that song for any junkie. When you take drugs you lose all respect for everyone and everything, including yourself, including your home.
Drugs can make you ecstatic, I mean you wouldn’t take them if they weren’t good, right? SWIM remembers times when she would fall about laughing at the smallest detail that someone said, something that would seem so funny to her and she remembers too when they got money or drugs she would run about the house screaming at the top of my voice ‘We got game, baby, we got game’.
After the high comes the unhappiness and shame. Drugs can make you hate yourself more than anyone else could possibly dislike you. Crack-cocaine gives you the worse come-down SWIM has ever experienced from any drug. She remembers at times crying so hard she thought her lungs would explode. At her lowest point SWIM remembers getting down on her knees praying to a God she knew didn’t exist. In fact, she wasn’t praying, she was begging Him for help.
SWIM's worst memory is one that took place in her home. She remembers a drug-dealer arriving at the door, then walking out ten minutes later, with her brand new, five-hundred pound flat-screen television in his arms. The drugs he left on the table only provided temporary solace for this desperate act. SWIM and her fella would sell anything to feed their addiction and get their hands on the next rock. They were forever chasing their first pipe, that’s what crack-addicts do. That’s all they do. They sold televisions, play-stations, televisions. Nothing was sacred to them. SWIM even sold her twenty-first birthday present. Hell, SWIM even sold her graduation gift: a watch that her parents gave her, ‘something to keep’, they said. SWIM kept it for a whole two-weeks.
SWIM remembers sitting in the bedroom of their now, virtually empty flat huddled around a small, portable inexpensive black radio, the only possession they had left, listening to the Lennox Lewis/Mike Tyson big fight. Oddly she doesn’t see that as an unhappy memory. No matter what has happened to them, they’ve always stuck together, SWIM and her man.
Now things are slowly getting better for them. They’re on the long road to recovery, ‘getting clean’ if you like. SWIM's back at university, writing this, thinking about what home means to her. She knows what home isn’t anyway. Home isn’t about material possessions, although they do have a few now, as they slowly rebuild their shattered lives.
SWIM thinks home is about memories and love, for her it is anyway. That’s why she's not sentimental about home….yet. She hasn’t got too many good memories to share about home, but she's hoping that all that is about to change. Home has seemed in the past to be a cold, loveless place, even though her man and she have always felt love for each-other you don’t really show it when you’re first love is a pipe.
SWIM believes that things are on the up for her and the man and, as they get themselves back on track, the more home is starting to mean to SWIM. It is becoming a place of refuge and safety, a place that she can look forward to going back to after college. A place where its good to sit on the sofa with the man by my side, watching telly, or listening to music together, doing the kind of ‘normal’ things that people do. And now SWIM is starting to think to herself that sentimentality about home isn’t such a bad thing either. Now SWIM's starting to think to herself that everyone should have a place like this to call home....