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X Marks The Spot

Ye push the crayon intae the thick paper an draw the picture o hame the way ye kin best express it. It’s no like a square hoose an clouds an rainbow colours but it’s your hame: ye ken it like naebody else. But a boy sez ‘that disnae look like a hoose’ an teacher sez ‘what a great imagination’ an they ‘re baith thinkin ‘what’s he on aboot?’  but ye drew hame ken? an idea like, no jist a hoose. It’s a place ye feel safe an warm an loved an relaxed an accepted. A place where ye kin be yersel, where ye bond wi family an friends visit freely.  Even the mirrors are kind tae ye as ye mature an grow self-conscious an absorb the adverts tellin ye who ye should be. They mirrors at hame beam back the image o yer true self tae keep ye right. Hame’s where the hairt is: where ye’re forgiven an never forgotten, where ye’re no eyewis liked but eywis loved.

Then ye branch oot an make yer hame in different places wi new folk but hold tight tae the hame in yer hairt. If ye’re lucky ye stay true tae yer ain picture an stay true tae yersel. But reality bites an it’s paper, no dreams, that yer chasin. Ye cannae find work an folk are lookin at ye funny an there’s stifled whispers that ye’re lazy, cos the work’s oot there eh? So ye must be a scrounger or nae guid or no wice if ye cannae find it. An although ye think ye never bought intae that narrative, ye start tae believe it yersel, there must be somethin wrong wi ye. It’s been ground intae ye: once ye enter the big bad world yer worth is in yer wallet. Tae feel at hame in this country is tae be at hame wi that concept. An it chaws ye an ye feel rejected an ye want tae leave, cos ye feel betrayed an ye feel ashamed that ye dinnae fit anymair. Wi what cash ye have left ye buy a ticket an bolt for the blue horizon.

The plane whirls through the clouds an the sun flashes across the mountains unfoldin fae psychotropic green tae deep blue tae goose grey an fadin in cool concertinas roond the corner, windin their way tae new horizons. An ye get tae ken the place an the rhythms, an ye learn how it’s familiar an it can gie ye things ye gie back, an how many a mickle makes a muckle there too, an ye smile at the pickney in dem pretty pressed clothes, hail up yuh bredren an wink at de fat sexy gyal dem (cos de coca-cola bottle shape ah it a run de place). Ye graduate fae Russian tae brown man tae jist bredren: sun soaks skin as acceptance breeds brotherhood. Ye meet a lassie an fall in love, blessed love. Ye feel at hame: despite the pressure o life wi nae safety net ye feel at hame, suspended on the strings o a dream deferred. An ye stay through good times an bad: even after hearin the Brap Brap Brap that precedes the first time ye see a man get wet up, face doon in the dirt where a hot crimson halo floods roond his heid. Ye’re shocked an silenced an stunned, but still ye remain. From ye born ye nevah see dat, bwoy me a tell yuh. It gets too rough after a few years though ye must admit: it’s too much o a sair fecht. Ye think o goin back. Ye’ve tae find a job back hame that peys a certain amount though. The powers that be have decided that if yer woman comes fae the wrong country then she’s no welcome unless yer wallet weighs a certain amount. Love? a joke yuh a mek: pure money dem a deal wid. Hunners o job applications follow. At the point o surrender, Jah know star, ye land the right job.

So ye’re back in the cauld, missin the vibes an the sun an the people but thankful ye got a break. So what have ye learned? Dour cynics say ye got what ye deserved for darin tae dae somethin different. But ye made a choice for love an ye’ve nae regrets. Yer tail’s no between yer legs an ye showed ye had bottle. Noo ye have tae earn the right tae feel at hame in yer ain country. It’s no a given: ye have tae earn the right tae live in yer ain country wi the lassie ye love. Half the country disnae earn enough for that basic right. Maybe ye’re jist ungrateful, but although ye feel safer ye dinnae feel at hame quite yet: no if hame is defined by folk you’ll never feel at hame with. Mibbe that wis the problem fae the start.  Hame is an idea, a feeling, an emotion. It’s hard when ye step ootside yer door in yer ain country an ye dinnae feel welcome. Hame is the truth an rights ye hold dear, nurtured through the love o the folk in yer ain hoose : no by folk lookin in fae the ootside who dinnae ken ye or care aboot ye at aw.

But ye’ll gie it time, ye’ve no been back long. if ye keep faith in yersel an caw canny maybe ye can settle doon, keep yersel tae yersel, work hard an hae a happy life wi yer woman withoot folk botherin ye. Ye’re tired o ootside interference. After aw yer travels, ye feel there’s something buried just below the surface here in Scotland. There’s the potential tae finally build a hame tae be proud o, if ye pick the right spot, dig hard an start graftin. But it’s a treasure hunt ken? An ‘X’ marks the spot: only you kin decide where tae best make yer mark.

First published in the Scottish Book Trust ‘Scotland’s Stories of Home’ anthology.