The Isolation Journals: First Line

Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again. Though by Manderley, I mean Mahooz: the last neighborhood I lived in before leaving Bahrain.

Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again. Though by Manderley, I mean Mahooz: the last neighborhood I lived in before leaving Bahrain. Our place was a two-story, partly open-plan villa with four bedrooms, needlessly high ceilings and a U-shaped staircase that I adored. The lights in the house were yellow, so my memories of it are permanently lit that way.

In my head, the house was always full of people. The double-doors were those large and heavy wooden types, and opened up into a spacious floor we used as either dining or living room. To the right, the space flowed into a smaller, cozier room, separated only by a wide archway. Large gatherings were easy this way, and we had a lot of those. It’s probably why I dream of hosting gatherings someday.

In our later years with the house, however, my mom grew more and more anxious inside it. You see, the house had excellent acoustics and very heavy furniture. You could close a door somewhere and be heard by everyone everywhere else. I imagine it was lonely for a devoted mother and gracious hostess to live in that house if it was only going to feel quiet.

I was the only kid in the house my whole senior year, all my older siblings having left for college. I was the most introverted in the family, was probably not yet depressed, and so loved being alone with my thoughts. My mom did not. We had a big fight where she admitted feeling afraid that something was “not normal” about me.

You couldn’t blame me. I had a 20-ish square meter bedroom and a queen-sized bed all to myself. I was always a heavy reader and writer, I regularly fell asleep next to my books, and I had a penchant for pacing around the room for hours while daydreaming. (This would turn out to be undiagnosed ADHD but I suppose no one could have known that then. My life would have become more difficult.)

Many things about that final year were painful. I’ve forgiven most of them, chalked up to none of us knowing any better. It was still the last time I felt truly and wholly comfortable or safe in life.

I never got to say goodbye or take any last photos of the villa, because my parents moved out of It while I was in college. If the house was too quiet with three people, it must have been deafening with just two. In my dreams, though, there is that magic mix of being full of people and full of quiet at the same time.

“The Isolation Journals” started as a 30-day quarantine creativity project. It was created by the brilliant Suleika Jaouad for the challenging occasion that is COVID-19. A different journaling prompt landed in my inbox every day for the month of April 2020, each one from a different writer, artist, musician or thinker. As the global situation expanded, so too did the journaling project.

Today’s prompt is from published memoirist and advice columnist Erin Khar.

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