from Above Us

Winnie and Natalie are on a roof. On this roof, they have been discussing New York and the idea of home. Winnie, who has been in New York for eight years, is finally moving away. It’s been a long time coming, and Natalie approached her about subletting her East Village studio. Winnie has become hardened, jaded, but at this point has opened up to the optimistic, but secretly fearful Natalie.

In this selection, Natalie and Winnie discuss home and why Winnie is leaving the place she called home for the past eight years

NATALIE

Isn’t it crazy to think that we were all nomads before?

 

WINNIE

What do you mean?

 

NATALIE

That we were a hunter-gatherer people?

I mean, when did we get so obsessed with home?

 

WINNIE

With agriculture, farming.

 

NATALIE

I guess so.

But, what if home doesn’t exist.

 

 WINNIE

Well, it’s existed ever since farming.

 

NATALIE

Sure, but even then. Do you have a home?

 

WINNIE

Yeah.

 

NATALIE

You have a place that feels like home?

 

WINNIE

Yes. In my hometown.

 

NATALIE

But, what makes that place home?

 

WINNIE

Familiarity.

 

NATALIE

With people? Or with the place itself?

 

WINNIE

Both.

 

NATALIE

But, if you had to choose.

 

WINNIE

Well, I don’t.

Do you not have a “home?”

 

NATALIE

I mean, yeah. When people ask me where I’m from, I say Western New York.

 

WINNIE

Where?

 

NATALIE

Hamburg. It’s “upstate.”

 

WINNIE

Ok. So, when people ask you where you’re from, you say a place right? You don’t say the people you know in that place?

 

NATALIE

Sure. But, that’s something that came later.

 

WINNIE

With farming.

 

NATALIE

Yeah. But, for me, if my family and all my friends moved somewhere else, that new place would be home.

 

WINNIE

There’s no way. If they moved somewhere that looked really different, like the beach, there’s no way you could call that place home.

 

NATALIE

Sure. It would be a little weird, but yeah I think I would eventually.

 

WINNIE

“Eventually?” When that new landscape becomes familiar?

 

NATALIE

No. Just when I got used to saying Florida and not Western New York.

 

WINNIE

But, it’s all about physical location again.

 

NATALIE

Sure. But, that’s just the language we use.

“Home” is a modern idea.

 

WINNIE

And by modern you mean an idea as old as the origins of farming.

 

NATALIE

Yeah. If the world has been around for a day, a full twenty-four hours, then humans only popped up in the last like two or four minutes of that day. Dinosaurs were only around for forty.

 

WINNIE

According to what?

 

NATALIE

The Natural History Museum. I went last week.

 

WINNIE

So, do you not believe in home?

 

NATALIE

Not in the home tied to place.

 

WINNIE

So, what then?

 

NATALIE

I don’t know. The one tied to people.

 

WINNIE

Then, what do you call the place where you live?

 

NATALIE

I don’t know. It doesn’t matter really. A house? A studio? Call it anything.

 

WINNIE

I need somewhere to be home. I need a space that’s only mine.

 

NATALIE

Isn’t that what this roof is?

 

WINNIE

It was.

 

NATALIE

Not anymore?

 

WINNIE

No. Nothing in this city will ever be just yours.

 

NATALIE

Is anything ever just yours?

 

WINNIE

I hope so. I can’t really stand not having . . . something.

 

NATALIE

But, you do have something. This place, this roof is yours.

 

WINNIE

And soon it will be yours.

 

NATALIE

Ok. Yeah. And there’s something really wonderful in that.

 

WINNIE

Like what?

 

NATALIE

Like that we become part of this bigger story, you know? That it isn’t just ours. That it belongs to something bigger.

 

WINNIE

Bigger? Why do we always have to be part of something bigger? I am so sick of hearing about the fucking life force of the world.

 

NATALIE

But, that’s out there. The world has logic.

 

WINNIE

No. I am me and you are you. And, beyond that who the fuck knows?

 

NATALIE

I think that’s a dangerous way to think about things.

 

WINNIE

Why? Because it’s real.

 

NATALIE

No! Because it isn’t real.

Ok. Like my parents they live this isolated little existence in Hamburg. They bought a plot of land, right? And then they built a home for themselves, ok?

 

WINNIE

And that place isn’t home?

 

NATALIE

No, it isn’t! Because, that place is a prison. They’re never going to sell it because it’s the place where my brother and I took our first steps and where we grew up into annoying, whiny teenagers and threw our first parties when they went out of town. There is no other story in that house but our story.

 

WINNIE

So that place is yours. You have roots there.

 

NATALIE

But, the roots are so big that they’re drinking up all the water. There’s no flow in that house. No sense of, like, the world outside little Hamburg.

 

WINNIE

You should be grateful to have that.

 

NATALIE

Grateful for a prison where you’re locked in with your family?

 

WINNIE

This place is the prison, New York. Not Hamburg.

 

NATALIE

No.

 

WINNIE

New York is like the world’s most populated motel. It’s a place where life replaces itself. There are so many stories here, your story, your life barely makes a blip on the radar.

 

NATALIE

And that’s so cool! When you’re here you’re part of that ecosystem. There’s like a flow to New York.

 

WINNIE

Yeah. There is. And for a time that movement, that flow is great. I mean, I did a couple laps.

But, now, I need space. There’s barely room to do my art here. And when it becomes a struggle just to make your art, to find a space that’s sacred to you and for what you do, it just makes everything so much harder.

 

NATALIE

But, isn’t that what we have to do? To find that space within yourself?

 

WINNIE

Dude. I’m just talking about a space to solder shit.

 

NATALIE

But, you have that spot here?

 

WINNIE

Somewhere I rent for 50 bucks an hour, yeah.

 

NATALIE

Then that’s what your day job is for, and that’s what when you sell a piece of art it’s for, to pay for that hourly.

 

WINNIE

Well, first of all, however much money you put into your art, you’re rarely going to make that back. You rarely break even. It can’t be about the money.

It has to be about getting it out of your system and giving it to somebody else.

 

NATALIE

I guess. Or not.

 

WINNIE

There’s no sense in hoarding your own art.

 

NATALIE

Not hoarding. But, what if it’s about, what if it’s not about other people?

 

WINNIE

It’s not what it’s about. It’s about what it’s for.