Javier Jaén

10 / 12

From what I’ve been told, the construction of my house started nine months before I moved in. The first few months were very strange.

I had trouble understanding how my taps and switches worked. I discovered that opening my windows wide made the world less confusing and that, if I shouted, some friendly neighbours would bring me food and take out the rubbish. My rooms grew inexplicably large and my front door filled up with white stones. I learned to move the walls clumsily about and discovered other neighbourhoods with many little houses of every shape and size. For a time I made an effort to make my house look like all the others, and then I painted and redecorated it a million times until I had it how I wanted. The neighbours still dropped in regularly, but they no longer seemed so nice to me. Plants turned up unexpectedly in the corners and after the first dampness, the rooms stopped growing on me.

One afternoon I saw through the upstairs windows a house that shook the floor below. The sight of it made me dream of terraced houses. We moved our houses to the same street, but since it was always raining there, each house went back to its own postcode. When I managed to repair the leaks, I visited other towns, cities and even a country with houses unlike any I had seen before. My rooms became filled with pictures, books, vases, records and fridge magnets. I got back on good terms with the neighbours, and they taught me how to look after the plants, how to work the boiler and how to make the most of the cooker. I’m not sure exactly how it happened: I met another house and before I knew it I found myself in a bright terraced house with a little house in the garden. Finally, the clothes in the wardrobe, the blanket on the sofa, the bread on the table and the double bed. Home, sweet, salty, bitter, sour home.

One night, my beloved neighbours moved to another neighbourhood and no matter how much I shouted, they never brought me food again. Now it fell to me to take out the rubbish. The leaks came back and a plumber helped me to live with them. The little house in the garden proved a lot of work, it grew non-stop, it was never still, it opened the windows and painted itself with colours. One day it even sprouted wings from the walls, learned to fly and left us all with the door wide open. The tiles started to fall off, the first cracks appeared, and I had to run periodic checks on the electrical system. I struggled to keep the light off all night, and although the empty letterbox ached, I enjoyed the silence in the dining room. Every now and then a plug would need fixing, a new noise might appear, or a pipe would get clogged. When I drew the blinds, a drawer of memories opened, and I missed the neighbours. I remembered how much I enjoyed spending time with other houses and set about doing something about it. I threw the house out the window, changed the curtains, and went on the road again. I now loved nature and watching the birds perch on my roof. Sometimes that was enough. The light came back into the living room, and the little house in the garden suddenly showed up asking how to change a light bulb.