When you’re 20, you don’t imagine you’d still miss home. I thought the longing for my own bed with its multi-coloured duvet and the craving for my Mum’s endless cups of tea were long in my past. Childish sentiments that we all must grow out of, because what 20-year-old misses home? What 20-year-old still longs for her Dad’s rib-crushing hugs and to cuddle her labrador until she whines in protest? What 20-year-old wants to bicker with her siblings, if only to reassure her they’re there? What 20-year-old wants to curl up and watch QI with her Grandma, and be told off by her Mum for eating ice-cream out the tub?
Homesickness is a familar feeling. It’s when you’re dropped off at an English boarding school at 13; heart plunging into the pit of your stomach and an invisible pair of hands tightenening menacingly around your throat. Your eyes are open too wide to try and supress the tears that hover threatingly under your skin, only released once the bathroom door is shut firmly behind you. It’s when you hear a jingle-jangle of bangles and your heart stops because you are convinced that it’s your Mum coming to get you. It’s daydreams of running away, as you sit in classrooms and marvel at how unfamiliar everything is.
The sting is less severe now. It doesn’t burn every inch of my skin, but flares up now and then with an evil smirk, pinching at old wounds and taunting my childish desires. It jumps out at me under the disguise of a Swahili word whilst I read the news. It ambushes me on Facebook, as friends post picture of home and I stare longingly until better judgement makes me slam the screen shut. It poises itself, ready to strike, when I feel just a little bit low, finally winding me with a word, or a sound, or a smell. It hovers above my bed when I can’t sleep, a terrible silence so different from the orquestra of cicadas and frogs back home.
I am reduced to my 13-year-old-self, holding back tears and daydreaming about running away.