I am often intensely homesick for places I’ve never been, ages I’ve never lived, and things I’ve never seen. On the other hand, I’m almost never homesick for anything in my life even remotely related to home.
Gone Home reaches out like a vicious punch to the gut. The game feels more like a short story in the devastating way it left me breathless, almost numb and in shock by the end of it.
It wasn’t until I read, thanks to the prompting of Carolyn Petit, the beautiful and eloquent response to Gone Home by Meritt Kopas that a carefully maintained composure in my mind really cracked. The tears that had occurred sparingly throughout my play through of Gone Home now hit me like a rampage.
I had an extremely gendered childhood, the Old World breathing heavily down my neck. At every turn I felt both hyper-sensitive and overly oblivious. I could sense what other people couldn’t in a room, but I had no idea what was happening near the surface. Inside jokes and meanings that were clear to others were usually completely lost on me. Despite growing up in a francophone world, my French at home was splintered with Breton and Parisian slang, Spanish sayings, and Italian emphasis. Going to school, I remember acutely in the third grade being told to go sit with the English girls, because my French was wrong. I spent most of my childhood reading and hiding, which left me with a perplexing fear of being ignored, but also an acute fear of being in the wrong place.
Gone Home resembles nothing of my first queer romance. Actually, maybe it does. I was just as awkward and self absorbed as Sam was. I didn’t have the words to communicate what I felt. There was a profound distance between my quotidian and what I wished my life could be. My doodles of me and my friends in high school weren’t nearly as badass as the drawings in Gone Home (though in the 10th grade I did go through a pirate phase…) The X-Files merchandise lying around the house was a particularly good, even haunting, touch.
There’s some life I wished for myself when I was fourteen, sixteen, seventeen… It’s some intangible desire I don’t know how to verbalize, but I can feel it.
I was often homesick as a kid. By that I mean I was sick of home. I threw up twice a day, every day, for years as I transitioned from elementary to secondary school. I threw up once in the morning, often on an empty stomach, before leaving the house. Then, later in the day, I remember watching the sunset from my classroom window, and the way my stomach churned and churned at the idea of returning home. Malaise. It is particularly fitting that the nausea that pursued me translates into mal de coeur - almost ten years later, after a first failed year of university, I would discover a heart condition and an anxiety disorder I’d had all along that largely played a hand in bringing to life the anguish inside my skull.
Gone Home is a world I’ve never lived, despite many surface similarities. I was not a teenager in 1995, and I didn’t even know of the existence of queer communities until university. I didn’t come out as a teenager. I didn’t get to discover zines and angry feminist music as a kid – I wish I had. I wish somebody would have shown me a glimpse into that world – so that I could have learned the meaning of the word feminism and transgender and able bodied and patriarchy and oppression as a child. I would have been a lot less fucked up. Maybe I would have hurt fewer people. I would have hurt myself a lot less.
When my anxiety is indistinguishable from depression, my wish is to undo the past with the knowledge I have now. I wish I could have had a romance like the one in Gone Home. I wish I could have learned that my biology was not a prison. I wish I could have learned earlier that my body, my heart, my mind, was not a prison.
Gone Home is an experience that brought out a lot of feelings of regret for a childhood I lived but don’t really understand. Meritt Kopas wrote it best. I’m mourning a childhood I never had – childhood I couldn’t have.
I have a hard time remembering details from that time, other than the abject visceral moments of fear and miserableness. When I’m homesick, I’m not sick for my past, or sick for my home. Rather I still feel sick of my present, my quotidian, my everything. I want to wake up tomorrow in an entirely new body with an entirely new mind and an entirely new story. Gone Home reminds me that I still have so much work to do. I want to be happy to be alive one day, and not just hitting the atmosphere of my life like a meteorite trying not to self combust before the end.