jess johnson
london, uk 
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may 16th, 2020 

home excavations 

I never spent much time at home before, but now I’m always here. I also quit drinking just before the lockdown started. To avoid scrolling the news 24/7 while thinking about beer, I mount an ongoing adventure expedition within the walls of my flat. This involves cataloguing the minutiae of important events like bluebottles bumping against window panes, or sunlight flickering across walls.

Lots of objects got lost in the shuffle when we first moved in. I set about finding them, tunnelling through cupboards and drawers and shoe boxes filled with old letters. A bottle of perfume reveals itself in a battered metal tin under the sink. A long-lost earring and a cardboard tube filled with old posters both remain elusive.

I dig across a cache of unused postcards in an old suitcase hidden under the bed, and send them to friends elsewhere in the city. I sew a facemask from deadstock fabric, and post it to my grandmother in a thin envelope.

The private-public space divide is pronounced, but permeable. I work on my laptop on the kitchen floor between rock pools of light, the window wide open to let in the sounds of the bees and buses outside. Crunching through pack after pack of chocolate and sweets replaces the empty alcohol calories that my body is insistently missing. While I am doing this, my boyfriend star-jumps in the middle of the road. It’s a dead end, so there’s no traffic.

After work I walk to the river and back. If I time it right, I can watch the sun setting over the railway lines on my loop towards home.

Ambient colours feel increasingly significant. I paint a wall. I paint a picture. I buy a cabinet on eBay for £20 and when it arrives I paint that too, a vibrant poisonous-frog orange. The cabinet comes from a farm out in the countryside. When I look up the address, the website says the farmhouse is one of the oldest in the county, and that during renovation works they found hag stones hidden in the chimney. These are apotropaic pieces of centre-holed rock – protective charms, meant to keep bad magic at bay.

I move the furniture around and pile up the books in the hallway. The house plants stand a little greener and a little straighter, now there’s someone around to water them.

I watch the spider on the ceiling above my bed, and wonder where all my odd socks might be. I think about all the things we’ve been losing and finding.

what is something you'd like to do that you can't?

Keep people safe, and/or go dancing.