I’ve returned to my childhood home in the Bronx. It’s not a home, its an apartment I share with my sister, her child and my parents. I live in what was meant to be a living room, but was always my grandfather’s room. I share the space with my cat, who happily reminds me that she is entitled to a fair share of my full size bed.
Sometimes there isn’t hot water. I wait, or I boil some hot water which I mix with the cold water available. We take what I call bucket showers. I could rebrand it, and call it an eco friendly alternative, but who am I kidding. The only other times I’ve taken bucket showers were in Mexico at a Zapatista safe house, and again at the rancho in Amatepetlan, where there wasn’t any running water. Most times I wait, and wait til there is some warm water, before I run in and take a shower.
I close my eyes and think about the hours I spent reconstructing the house that once belonged to me in Detroit two years ago. I would spend most of my time at Home Depot, buying everything from sheet rock, to insulation to nooks and cranies to parts. I learned to install floors. I learned to paint and install walls. I looked the part in Carhartt overalls and coat, with my nails tainted black from the time I spent outside digging through the weeds.I was able to see the cycle of a sunflower, whose seed was smaller than my nail, grow taller than me, wilt over, and stumble like toothpicks in the backyard.
I open my eyes and I see the cracks in the walls, the crooked wall panels. I walk and can hear the creak of the unstable floor beds. There are definitely parts of the apartment that are falling apart. I can hear it, and smell the gas leaking from somewhere nearby.
I get angry and entitled sometimes when I remember that I didn’t live like this before-even if it was for a very short time. I get angrier when I think about my parents and how they’ve always lived like this before that there really isn’t an alternative. I like to think there are alternatives.