By Stavriana Delipretou
Home. It is not a house, for what is in a house if not soulless furniture inside walls crowned by a roof? It is not even a country, at least not for me, not anymore. I still hear my grandpa’s voice in my head, heavy and steady, and I can almost look in his dark brown eyes while he’s saying that the unhappy is he who is trapped between two homes, between two lands, between two worlds. I remember myself before I left, trying to memorise all the places I had ever been to, all the streets that I had ever walked, the smell of spring during what had appeared to be just another cold winter day. I hopped on a train with no destination and every destination. I said goodbye to the sea, the vast, infinite sea and to the bright, endless sky above it. I said goodbye to the rhythm of the city,where everything moves so fast or suddenly stops. I said goodbye to those ancient marbles, caressed by the warm Mediterranean sun, that are still standing still, witnessing silently secrets from another era—secrets that I almost touch from time to time—without ever uncovering them. I said goodbye to everything and everyone. Knowing deep inside me that, when I would come again, I would not be coming “back”. I booked a ticket, and it was the first ticket that I had ever holded in my hands with no return. And I didn’t shed a single tear. I didn’t cry for the country that had been a mother to me for eighteen whole years – an entire life. Very often I would hear myself say that it never felt like home. But how would I have known what a home felt like? Still, something wasn’t right. I could feel an empty space, a void that my beloved Greece had never achieved to fill. And then I turned to France, hoping that I would find that thing I had been looking for. And a part of me was happy, happier than it had ever been. But, all of a sudden, I would look at the olive oil from my village on the kitchen table. I would smell the herbs that I collected one by one from our garden. I would turn my eyes to the pictures over my desk, pictures with smiling faces and happy eyes that I got used to seeing only through my phone’s bright screen.
Yes, in France, I am Greek. More than I have ever been in my entire existence, to be honest. Never have I heard this many greek songs, never have I cooked such huge quantities of moussaka, never have I talked as much about my beautiful and weird Mediterranean country. Not until now. But the thing is, I am “the Greek” everywhere— except for Greece. Over there, I am “the French”, as if six months away makes you a different person. Or maybe it does, I haven’t figured it all out yet.
The year was 2019. The calendar wrote August 21st. And that date will always be inked inside me, with clear, big letters. It was the day were I left my identity behind me, and somehow I holded it tighter than I had ever done before. I now carry with me an olive branch, an “opa” we would shout with joy while dancing, and some basil, just like the one my grandmother gives me every time I leave her house. But I also have the colorful houses of Menton. I have the parties and the people that I am proud to call my friends. I have sea, sun and lemons. And I have stories. Stories from the States, from Lebanon, from Tunisia, from Italy, and from Turkey. I am Greek, Athenian, French, Mentonese. I am human. I am everything and nothing at all. But, in reality, aren’t we all everything and nothing at the same time? Aren’t we all coming from that same, slightly peculiar, blue globe that, no matter what, keeps spinning around a medium-sized star? At one time, some walls cut the earth in little pieces and created pain, sorrow, hate. They divided people into nations. And they turned them against each other, as if it were not brothers fighting brothers and mothers fighting children.
The year was 2019. The calendar wrote August 21st. And that date will always be inked inside me, with clear, big letters. It was the day were the biggest adventure of my life had begun: I started discovering my home.