Synopsis: In this blogpost, my trek back to Qatar and how my trip became a goodbye pilgrimage in more ways than one.
October already; we are entering the fall although, judging by the high record-breaking temperatures in some parts of the United States the planet doesn’t know it yet. It is long past the time in which I should have closed this saga of blogposts about the month I spent in Puerto Rico early this summer. One doesn’t need to be particularly astute to know I haven’t done it yet because it is difficult for me to do it. For various reasons, from the simplest to the most complicated, let’s not go there yet. Or better than that, let’s dip our feet in lightly at first.
The time to say goodbye is fast approaching. Saying goodbye is the weirdest thing in the world; it is not as straightforwardly sentimental for me as people might imagine. I’ve gone so many times from so many places that going became part of my second nature. What’s more, the possibility of coming back is a secret pleasure attached discreetly to all the departures. Going away voluntarily makes you an ingrate and a pioneer, an outcast and a hero, a novelty, a source of vicarious entertainment for those you leave behind. A planet, a wanderer.—Gosh! That sounds so glamorous I am running out of adjectives.
The texture of my stay at home was bumpy and bittersweet—more adjectives for you—as I spent time on everything and everybody, even on myself. I spoke a lot with the ones closest to my heart, did my duty, had fun, cried, wrote stuff, and then felt my body protesting and my sentiments torn because as much nostalgia as one can accumulate and as much as one is attached to one’s parents, the other half of my soul was still living without me on the other side of the Atlantic. It was, truly, time to go home. There are contradictions that have to be accepted and there are rifts that cannot be closed and that is the order of the universe, at least of my universe. So after much evaluation of circumstances and with the blessing of my father, I undertook that crazy twenty-five hour trip that now constitutes my way back home.
I had some extra time at the airport in Puerto Rico, so I had my lunch and then window shopped looking for trinkets, for keepsakes, anything that would give me the illusion of taking a part of the island with me. Never mind that most souvenirs had that eternal ‘made in China’ sticker stuck somewhere. Finally I didn’t buy anything; none of it was what I needed to take with me.
I had a long layover in Boston, bought some books, worked on other blogpost and tried to kill time as best as I could. The guy next to me asked if I saw it. “Saw what?” I said. He meant the mouse. I hadn’t seen it but then I was on the lookout for it and managed to take some pictures which I showed to my neighbor. We chatted briefly, the briefest of friendly chats. I must confess that I like to talk to strangers, especially if I am in a well-lighted, crowded, and generally safe place like an airport. The guy went on with his life and his trip; after that, the mouse provided great entertainment. It seemed to have a very prosperous life foraging amidst the food residues falling from people’s tables on that airport lounge. I wonder if it still there.
The rest of trip was not worse nor better than other times. Life has the consistency of virtual reality when you had been sitting for hours and hours on a chair designed to make you feel you are been transported like a sardine. I think I will never get used to that. And then, jet lag.
I went in for a hug as soon as I was closed enough to my husband when he picked me up, but I hastily pulled away as I recalled where I was; it is highly inappropriate—I’ve heard, even illegal, but had no confirmation yet—to make public displays of affection here. Nobody batted an eye, so I guess that they do make concessions for dazed travelers in the partly neutral territories of the airport.
My recovery from jet lag was slow, as it usually is. Two days and a subjective eternity after my arrival, I called home to check-up on my family, and I had the news that my mother had passed away in the hospital.
It was not exactly a surprise; we were all aware, as per her doctors, that her prognosis was less than encouraging. But one always wants to hope for a little good luck, a few more months or a few more years. And yet, the whole trip became goodbye in more ways than one. I debated whether I would finish the series of blogposts or not; the circle of my narrative felt broken and now it feels complete, for whatever that is worth. I just have to say what is fitting even if I don’t like the reality behind it: Farewell, mami. May you rest in peace.
In loving memory of dña. Carmen Rivera Morales.