by YEN-RONG WONG
THE SMELL OF HOME
In this day and age of improbable home ownership for many of my generation, the ideals associated with “home” have changed, even if imperceptibly. I moved out of home when I was 18 out of necessity more than anything else and since then, I’ve lived in three different places, all for different periods of time. I’ve felt varying levels of attachment to these places, and sometimes I wonder who is now living in the residences I’ve vacated.
And then there is the house I spent most of my childhood in. On the rare occasion that I visit, it feels slightly empty – both of possessions and of feeling. It’s as though it doesn’t feel right – it doesn’t smell right – and I breathe a sigh of relief once I am back in my own apartment.
Do you need a house of your own for it to be a home? Maybe not. But maybe to feel truly at home (anywhere, that is) you need to feel comfortable within yourself.
I have a very particular and very soft spot for stationery. There’s something about the thickness of a piece of paper, the width of the lines that are drawn on it (if there are lines at all), how the paper is bound together, the feel of and look of the cover. Then there are writing utensils – how smoothly a pen or pencil writes, how the ink flows from the barrel.
There are particular pieces that make me happy, others that make me frustrated. Some people are able to manipulate paper physically to make beautiful art. Others may need to draw, or write, or a combination of the two. There is something about the feeling of putting pen to paper, and seeing one of your creations come to life. Perhaps it makes me take more notice of the world around me, reminding me not to take the little things in life for granted.
I’ve always found language fascinating, and I think a lot of it comes from learning Mandarin from a very young age. The progression from what are essentially drawings to a language that follows somewhat logical rules is why I am so adamant about sticking with traditional Chinese, as opposed to simplified. The Chinese language is storytelling at its finest. The intricacy and beauty of the language is probably why I find myself returning to it again and again, even though it has the ability to frustrate me to no end.
Learning Chinese also gave me the opportunity to really appreciate the way in which languages are created – delve into the etymology of any language and it may well reveal the history of an entire culture. If I’m being honest, you might not like what you find – but surely that’s what development is for, right?
And then there is the fact that in this modern age, the very notion of language has developed and changed. There are programming languages and our genetic code is a language in and of itself. 98.8% of our DNA is what is known as non-coding DNA, but scientists are continually uncovering its importance in maintaining many of our bodily functions. These letters and numbers that we have arbitrarily assigned literally make us who we are – yet we barely know what they do.
Her name is Autumn and she looks at me with piercing green eyes. They are inquisitive and menacing, all at the same time. I know she will lick my leg just as soon as she will try and use it as a scratching pole. I know she loves me – whatever love means in the heart of a cat. It is not the unconditional love of a dog, and somehow, this makes it all the more special.
Sometimes, I wonder what life looks like for her, what I look like, and what she really feels for me. Am I just the person who gives her food periodically? The one who leaves at strange times in the morning and comes home at even stranger times at night?
I wonder what she feels when Manny, the next door neighbour’s cat, comes and tries to steal her territory from her. What is she trying to convey in her shrieks and her desperate air-clawing? What would she say to me if she was able to form the proper words?
I see a lot of Autumn in myself – we are both tenacious and independent. I wonder if we would be friends if she was a human, or if I were a cat.
YEN-RONG WONG is the founder of Pencilled In, a literary magazine that seeks to promote work by young Asian Australian artists, and also works for Hot Chicks with Big Brains, The Fem, Read Women, and Rambutan Literary. She is particularly interested in Gothic literature and its intersections with contemporary work, as well as South-East Asian women's writing. She lives with her cat, Autumn, and too many shelves stuffed full of books.