“Mis Querencias”

By Kenia Torres 

What is Home? Honorable Mention

I am standing in the dark, in front of my kitchen window which faces the view of the street. Barefoot. Feet pressed against the cool kitchen tiles. The digital clock on the stove next to me indicates it’s 2 a.m. in fluorescent green numbers. Outside the lonely streets are illuminated by the dim glow of a single streetlight and the flashing red lights of the ambulances and cop cars that won’t stop passing by. I’ve gotten used to the sound of the sirens haunting the night. Their loud piercing cries a reminder, an announcement, of what happens to the unlucky in times like these. But from the second floor in which I stand, it all seems so distant. So impossible. So unlikely to happen to me. 

The start of the pandemic transformed my apartment into an interrogation room in which I asked all the questions but received no answers. When will this be over? When will things go back to normal? Will it ever be the same? Silence followed.

I lost count of the days I hadn’t been outside. Lost count of the times I thought I heard gun shots in the distance. Lost count of the times I turned off the TV and cut off the reporter from Telemundo mid-sentence, as she spoke about the drastic increase in crime and Covid cases. 

My window became a one-way mirror through which I saw the world, while remaining invisible to it. Through it, each day, I watched as the world crumbled. 

I couldn’t help but notice the way my neighborhood changed. The way Hindi music no longer blasted from my neighbor’s back yard upon cancelling the parties she threw every week. The way the school playground in front of my house, which was never empty, no longer contained any children. The way the lady who always wore bright colors now mourned in black. 

When it became safe to take evening strolls, I wandered a few blocks away from my apartment. On my way, I passed businesses which my parents, and later I, had been visiting for years. The Chinese food place on the corner of 97th street, the Colombian place just feet away from it, the beauty salon where my friend’s mom worked, all permanently closed. I walked further. Passed a sign taped to the laundromat door which read “Rest in peace Sandra” and tried not to cry. I walked faster. Passed multiple people lost in a sort of hallucination, talking to themselves or cursing at the wind. I clenched my keys between my fists. Passed others who sat in corners or pushed around shopping carts with what was left of their belongings and looked away. 

The place I once called my home, the only home I ever knew, was now completely unrecognizable. 

Back in my apartment, I stay up with the night since I can no longer sleep. I stand in front of my window once more but don’t recognize what I see. The night is still this time and the only sound to be heard is the soft hum of the silence. I wonder if this is my neighborhood’s way of grieving. 

I stand perfectly still with my hands by my side and take a deep breath in. I become aware of my body standing in the darkness as I picture the walls around me falling down. I let my thoughts flood over me while I stand there. I don’t know why but I think of Plato.

Plato believes that the soul separates from the body when you die, and returns to the realm of forms where it originally came from, in which everything perfect resides. In that moment, I believe my soul couldn’t wait till death. It departed as I stood there. Eyes closed. Facing the chaos. Leaving behind my body where it stood. And that’s when I felt it. Home is not the place where the body lives. It’s the place where the soul resides. Within the memories of beautiful things and beautiful people that bring comfort even during the worst of times.