Report on the state of grey affairs.
Sunday 28 June 2020

I own two grey shirts. The first is made of darker, slightly blueish corduroy. The colour of stales, but a bit lighter. The second is my favourite piece of clothing. Pale grey flannel with a buttoned-down collar. The sleeves on both of them are too long for me, so I wear them rolled up just bellow my elbows. I like talking about my favourite shirt, about how I bought it without really meaning to in the first place. How I entered a shop to buy a white shirt and came out with a grey one instead. It’s a good story to tell. I think it says more about my relationship with greyness than any detailed statement or structured explanation I could come up with ever would.

Both my shirts are laid flat on my bed now. One of them must go in the cardboard box, with most of my clothes and some of my books. Honestly, I didn’t really notice I had managed to hoard that many books until the time to pack them had come. I have to make a decision. Keeping my favourite shirt as a part of the small selection of garments that will travel with me back to my parents’ house would appear like the expected way to go. But this is a flannel shit. And it is almost July now.

The totality of my belongings, with the exception of what I’ll manage to cram in my suitcase and what I plan on donating to charity, fits in five 457x305x305 mm cardboard boxes. I have mixed feelings about boxes. I understand how practical they are, don’t get me wrong. But I am wary of their finitude. Of how much space there is for labels on their sides. Of the inscriptions left on their surface by sharpie-wielding hands. Bedroom: stuffed animals; stationery; trinkets.

In the room, there isn’t much left of the grey things I listed in my first report in March. The space behind the bookcase, sure. The bookcase itself, which has taken over the paper organizer’s role as a drop-off spot for all the random items laying around: house keys, face masks sawn by my grandma, hard drive, umbrella, two notebooks, masking tape… Only three books are still displayed there. There is also the mirror by the window. The few strands of cobwebs that appeared in the last month in some corners of the ceiling. This tiny spot where the paint flaked off, strangely shaped like a perfect, tilted rectangle. And the cardboard boxes piled up against the radiator, ironically the greyest things in the room.

A shift in belonging happens to the things you put in cardboard boxes, moving boxes, storage boxes. It’s sudden. As soon as they enter the container, they simply stop belonging anywhere else. They are to be left there until they reach a destination, a place or a time to be extracted and brought back into the living, breathing world (consider Christmas ornaments). They belong in a place that can never belong. Things that may still have a use but have no place to go in your home. Things that you don’t want to throw away, yet. Things in transit. Maybe that’s it, the reason why I tend to feel sad each time I have to fill boxes.  

There is something inherently grey about opaque boxes whose content’s state is left to be guessed, becoming nothing else than potentiality (consider Schrödinger’s cat).

As soon as the items entered the box, they stopped belonging to my flatshare in Wimbledon and started belonging to their destination, a room in my parents’ house. This displacement is slowly reaching to me now. My sense of belonging here is starting to dissolve, without me having a say in it. I wasn’t meant to leave so soon, and it wasn’t meant to feel so permanent. Circumstances of the unprecedented kind — paradoxically the kind the most commonly encountered at the moment — just got in the way. I wasn’t expecting for this version of home to reach its expiration date so fast.

There are three light grey walls in the room I am lucky to have to myself in my parents’ house. I picked the colour five years ago. I am not sure that it is enough to make it a home, but that can’t hurt.
It’s Summer, a few years back. I am sitting on the passenger’s side while my best friend drives. I can’t recall if it’s the morning or the afternoon. The car vibrates with the low rumbling of the engine. The vineyards pass by on both sides of the road with their rows like stripes fanning out from the horizon. We are on a trip to nowhere, driving for the sake of it in the Swiss countryside. Music is playing on the radio. “Home is wherever I’m with you” sings Edward Sharpe. We sing along.

“People are not going anywhere, you know that. They’re not going to just disappear.” You are right, I know that. I can recognize care’s ability to compress miles or to stretch them beyond what is bearable. If there is one thing the past few months taught many of us, is that distance can be worked through and around. You can trick space, to an extent. No matter where the satellites place us on the map, we can still meet on both sides of a glass rectangle as images whose definition will depend on who else is using the wi-fi in the house. But it’s a different way for love to be transmitted, isn’t it. It has to change to accommodate the new settings. And chances are that this transformation, this new shape it takes, breaks the heart that contains or receives it in some ways without causing any direct pain. A faint crack somewhere, maybe.

I tried to sell some items on eBay yesterday. I didn’t manage to list a single one online as the system got confused with the informations linked to my account, which was created years ago when I was living in Lausanne. It turns out that no matches could be found for a place called London in Switzerland.

The way I came to understand it, home is this odd network drawn by the breadcrumbs you left behind you as you went about your way, entrusted with people or kept in your pockets. Pins and threads. My home is a chaotic weaving of people and places. I don’t have a place to come back to, but many.

Two days ago the yearly review of my work, the publication I have spent the last weeks designing, came out of the printer’s finished and packed. I sent a picture of a copy to my parents. “Great! Which colour is it going to be next year?”  “I think I’m going to stick with grey for a little while”.