[They Don’t Really Know]
After N. disappeared past the gates, we stayed back. Just sat in silence on the sofa couch and looked down at the people lining up for their plane tickets. You have to wonder where they’re going sometimes. Hong Kong. Tokyo. San Diego. Afghanistan. All these lines connected to some other space; all these lines that ran through a single place.
It caught me off guard when K. murmured, “Sometimes I feel like I’m not getting anywhere.”
Somewhere past the security gates, N. waited for the plane to dock. K.’s thoughts seemed jumbled, unsure of what she wanted to say, where she wanted to go with the scramble of words she’s been given. K. said, “I feel like I’m not progressing. I’m kinda just stuck here. Not that that’s a bad thing. But everyone’s almost gone, and who knows when they’ll be back, right? And all this time, I’ve been trying to keep things the same.”
Foreign business men walked back and forth. Japanese tourists filed up in front of their tour guides. American families waited in line: their skin a bit red and sun burnt from their days under the tropical sun. But they don’t really know, do they? They don’t really understand what they’re leaving.
There was an obvious frustration in here voice, an exasperation led astray with a quiet pleading: “I don’t really know where else to go.”
And somewhere beyond, I imagined N. checking her ticket at the gate and the attendant smiling at her, “Welcome aboard. Thanks for flying with us. We hope you’ll have a pleasant trip!” I imagined the bitter sweetness in those words, that sense of leaving home for something potentially better. Something that alters an otherwise sullen pathway. A side step into the middle chasm between light and dark, knowing and unknowing.
Before N. left us, she, K. and I hugged for the last time. N. gripped tightly, and I felt a rush of everything coming back in a split second: the ways walking through the meadow after school, passing those awkward puberty stages, driving up to our “secret” house out in the jungles, relaxing at her house with nothing to do, laughing while piss-drunk — all these things knocked the wind from my lungs. I gasped when she reeled me in close, and it felt like she took everything and compressed it inside for all of us to hold.
She looked like a kid who didn’t want to leave her mother on the first day of school. No matter how hard you try to wrench those kids away, it hurts you as much as it hurts them. It’s the slipping fingers that ache the most: the way they grace along the remains of your existence before they depart.
The line through the security gate was surprisingly clear today. Not a lot of people were passing through right now. It was going to be a clean, swift blow not an agonizing twist of, “Is she clear? No, she’s still in the line! Oh, she’s looking! Wave!”
N. looked at her watch. We all knew. “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”