There once lived a girl called Namai who had an unusual dream – to become homeless. She had a polka-dot dress on a blue hanger and a polka-dot house on the 7th Sky. All people in the Sky Kingdom were living happily ever after in their smart and pretty homes levitating in tall skies. Enchanted ladders lured them up and no one ever wanted to return. But Namai was different, she knew her house’s mischievous ways.
Years ago, when she first climbed the 7 steps and met Benamis, she was charmed. The girl and her home quickly became best friends. The house knew all Namai’s habits and regimes, unnoticeably monitored her health and activity and helped her settle down. There was always hot soup on the table when she was ill. At times of experiencing romantic disappointment Benamis would offer the girl a big jar of her favorite chocolate. When she was meeting friends, the house would sent her off telling her how pretty she looked. Namai also wanted to please her home so she lived by the Unwritten and Unspoken rules. She ate healthy, studied a new language every weekend, worked out, recycled everything and never wasted any of the Earth Gifts. Benamis would share all their accomplishments with the clouds making everyone in the Kingdom jealous of their perfect relationship. However, perfect did not last long.
The 7th Sky was built upon the clouds and governed through them. The cloud democracy was the most precious accomplishment of the sky society – a place where everyone’s voice was heard, hierarchies were leveled out and people ruled together in harmony. However, Namai’s dreams were haunted by visions of imbalance, diversity and imperfection that she had never encountered in her world. The girl needed an explanation of these extraordinary delusions and for the first time Benamis was unable to help. Their relationship slowly started falling apart.
In her search for answers Namai came across the legends of the Low Lands and quickly got obsessed by these marvelous stories. The more she read, the more grew her irritation with Benamis. She felt the house’s constant watchful eye spying on her and fantasized of having secrets. She knew her home told it all to the clouds and wondered what privacy felt like. Namai also began to notice patterns behind Benamis’ gestures. For example, soup was only due if her body temperature was minimum 2°C above normal. ‘You are pretty’ came only if she spent 30 minutes in front of the mirror and not a second less. Was Benamis anything more than a machine for living?
Namai could now see beyond the seeming perfection of her world. She realized the Sky people, without even recognizing, had volunteered away their freedoms and built a system relying on technology so advanced, it was invisible; a decentralized governance based on narcissism and judgement without trial. The girl daydreamed of the Low Lands where people never stepped foot on the enchanted housing ladders and lived on lively streets and under illuminated bridges. ‘What a wonderful cloudless world it must have been!’ she thought.
Soon Namai felt like her house was in control of every single aspect of her life. There was only one route to freedom, and it was down the ladder. She had never gone down the steps, no one in the Kingdom ever had. How hard could it be? She slipped into her polka-dot dress, said goodbye to Benamis and closed the door. The house answered ‘see you later’ – little did it know the girl was never to return.
The moment Namai put her foot on the ladder, the clouds gathered around her. They were so thick it was difficult for the girl to move through. She could feel the immense weight of the public judgement and pressure on her shoulders, but she was determined to escape Benamis. When she finally reached the 6th Sky Namai was absolutely exhausted. Unfortunately, as the streets were empty an inconspicuous entrance was impossible, so the girl was immediately spotted and appointed a house. On the 6th Sky everyone had a home, but houses were different depending on a person’s social status. Namai was sent to one of the underprivileged Houses – it didn’t have polka-dot walls, it wasn’t smart and it definitely did not set her free. She wanted to be homeless but now she was housed again, only in worse conditions. She knew she had to run away one more time. On leaving she did not say goodbye and neither did the house – it most probably couldn’t.
The journey to the 5th Sky was much easier as the clouds were thinner and less powerful. Upon arrival, Namai was quickly taken to the Homeless Habitat. The name of the establishment made her optimistic but soon she faced a crowded shelter with an endless array of beds. She realized she would not find freedom here either. Without wasting more time, Namai set off to the 4th Sky and it finally offered her what she was looking for – homelessness.
The sight of people sitting on the streets, outstretching their arms strangely, others giving them shiny rings brought Namai a sense of hope. She sat down on the pavement, smiled and stretched her arm in an attempt to fit in. Soon a stranger started talking to her. Then another one and another one. ‘What a lovely place!’ she thought. Later that day she met another homeless girl who explained that the appearing kindness of people was simply masked pity and the homeless were always discriminated, judged and treated as outcasts here. At first Namai dismissed these words but as time went on she recognized her own naivety and realized that for most homelessness was not a choice, but an imposed condition. False sympathy started affecting her self-esteem.
Discouraged and saddened, Namai crossed the Grand Pity Bridge to the 3rd Sky where rumor had it that compassion did not exist. Unfortunately, on the other side of the bridge she encountered not only the same unfair stereotype against homeless people but also an exceptionally rude and cruel attitude towards them. Without making a stop, the girl continued to the next kingdom. To her confusion, on the 2nd Sky there were not enough houses for everyone, but also no homeless people. Wandering around she realized the homeless were simply invisible – excluded to the periphery, they remained out of sight and out of mind. She spent a year on the outer edges but still did not feel free. One fine summer’s day, she decided to continue on to the 1st Sky, but she was met with a very bad surprise. There, homelessness was a crime and Namai was taken straight to prison. She definitely did not want to live behind bars, but there was no ladder going back up and she was afraid of what she may encounter on the Ground, as with each kingdom her situation only got worse. She now regretted leaving in the first place.
After long contemplation, Namai eventually built up the courage to go down the ladder once again. A short journey took her to the Ground where she was astonished to find a large Metropolis. The girl was curious to explore this fantastic city and her excitement grew with every step along its vibrant streets. In the Metropolis ‘non-home’ lifestyle was desired and practiced by many citizens because a culture of sharing and tolerance allowed the homeless to live in dignity. Upon learning that, Namai smiled for the first time in months.
As the sun was coming down the girl witnessed an unusual event – everyone gathered on the streets and silently watched the spectacle of empty homes, unreachable and extraordinary, flying in pretty pink bubbles and reflecting the last rays of light. The girl stopped and stared at this wonderful vision, thinking the Sky Kingdom looked much prettier from down here. As she was the only one to look up without longing in her eyes, Namai wondered if people constantly dreamed of the unreachable.
- You look beautiful. – Someone on the street turned to her.
Namai had not heard these words since she left Benamis. But for the first time ever, they brought her a warming sense of sincerity, affection and belonging. She knew something wonderful was about to begin.
This was the story of Namai who embarked upon a long journey in search of homelessness, only to find true home.
by Mat Walker and Maria-Magdalena Atanasova