My heart is like a house | Inquirer Opinion

My heart is like a house

/ 05:04 AM December 15, 2023

It is a common saying that “people come and go,” that we are meant to touch each other’s lives even more temporarily than their durations. But personally, I feel like the saying stops short; people come and go and change you with each step they take along the way. If we were to liken human hearts to objects, I’d liken mine to a house—a refugee center, a community shelter. There are foot tracks too many and layered to differentiate, holes punched in walls, and stains no amount of cleaning can erase. Now, it does sound sad, but isn’t a lived-in house warmer than an abandoned one? Isn’t it true that even ruins once loved wildly before they burned? There is a strange logic to it I can never put my finger on.

What’s stranger still is the way I remember the history of it to the most minute details—the way some guests have come in without knocking or locked themselves in a room to never come out.

The way I’ve sometimes seen people linger on the front step and turn away before they could come inside.

Or all the ways I found out my house is apparently different from others. People will tell me there are too many other guests, that they want the whole place to themselves, and leave when I say my house is not for sale. People will complain of the cold when my house was not built with a furnace. People will trip over the flooring as uneven and unsteady as the blood in my veins. All these things I thought were normal until I found out some guests grew up in cookie-cutter neighborhoods, without the constant buzzing noise of renovation nor the remnants of repurposed materials, of hand-me-down love.


And it is only natural they return to the comfortable over accepting the unconditional. And it is only natural I have no blame to throw out the door after them when it is I who is so strange.

And yet I have guests who have not left since their arrival, who looked around and made a home for themselves, and loving them is as easy to me as breathing. They help me change the dead lightbulbs, they see the marks on the wall and ask me how they got there instead of looking away in disgust.

And what’s more, they put their belongings down, take their welcome and bask in it, hang pictures of memories in their rooms. They speak of things again and again until my heart remembers, until the words echo off the walls: “I’m here,” “I understand,” “Don’t be afraid.” But even then, I anticipate the goodbye, the fading of their footsteps met with new, unfamiliar ones. But the goodbye doesn’t mean I pack up their things and throw them into storage, it just means the new guests will have more things to ask me.

After all, I don’t like my walls painted unevenly, where you can see patches of a lighter shade and can tell a picture once hung there. After all, I have an entire room in my house that was once defiled beyond recognition, completely razed down in a fire—my very own little Library of Alexandria. And while I can’t deny I still feel the fear of the heated memory whenever I approach its door, all I can think about when I look through it is how wonderfully I built it back up again. All I can think about is the day I might be able to trust someone with its key.


The strangest thing of all is how matter of fact this has become for me, no longer something I hide in shame. It’s true that my house can never escape its weak foundations no matter how much I renovate or how much I expand. It’s true that the ground it was built upon was not watered with love, and any kind of love I give to my guests in turn may as well have been something I invented myself with how unfamiliar I am with the word. But it’s also true that my house can become anything I shape it to be: a church, a museum, a mausoleum. And it’s true that I still choose to make an excuse of a home out of it, to invite people in, all my dysfunction laid bare on the welcome mat. For at the end of the day, it is mine.

Because while it is others who leave their marks, it is me who chooses if and how to remember, how and what to rebuild or destroy.


Because I have always loved like a broken faucet. Because I have never assumed that to give someone something would equate to taking it away from myself.

And though the appearance inside may change with time and the comings and goings of its guests, my house will always welcome me with the same words on its front door: You will hurt everyone you ever love just as they will hurt you. Everyone you have ever loved, you will love for the rest of your life.


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Zoë Salinas, 23, is a psychology graduate who wrote this because of a certain song she could not get out of her head.

TAGS: Heart, home, House

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