20 November 2006

and now back to our regularly scheduled program

in the plane on the runway last night, preparing for take-off: I always squeeze my eyes shut and pretend it's not happening. take-off, that is. I never like to think about what's actually happening in those moments.

I could see the manhattan skyline from my tiny rectangular window. the faint lights of the empire state building, the chrysler building. and the bridge lights, they looked like giant glittery garlands draped over the city. someone behind me was sucking on a cough drop. I could smell something strong and medicinal, something like eucalyptus. the people across the aisle were already sleeping soundly and the small bright light above me felt like my own private spotlight. I've always loved that. if you fly at night and turn that thing on, you feel like you could have your own show. like if you had a microphone and a clove cigarette, you'd be all set to growl out poetry to whoever might listen.

the pilot began whispering (really, he was whispering) something about take-off and I couldn't really hear him. not so much because he was whispering but because I was deep into all the thinking-- about all the things I did and did not do. I was thinking of what kind of job I could dream up that might require trips to new york on the regular but also allow me to maintain status as a full time mama. I was already planning my next trip, compiling every kind of mental list imaginable. so much going through my head and looping repeatedly. all of it so that my mind would not go where I didn't really want it to go. I didn't want to think about those last minutes with my brother. how he rode in the cab with me all the way to la guardia and stayed with me up until the very last minute. how we made small talk over hot tea and pretended like it wasn't the end. how he squeezed every last drop out of our time together. and it really doesn't matter how old you are or how many hundreds of times you have done it, saying goodbye is the most heartbreaking sort of thing to do. because you never want to think about how long it may be until the next time or that it may actually be the last time. you don't want to think about all the things you should or shouldn't have said.

he waved at me as I stood in line at the security check point. I thought he'd already gone on, but there he was. waving and half-smiling, one last time before he finally walked away. I fumbled with my bags then, tried to get them into the grey plastic trays as quickly as possible. I could feel the restlessness of people behind me and bristled at the thought. I yanked my boots off and slammed them into the bin. one glance back at everyone and I knew I'd made my point. and I didn't want to cry, not then but I could feel it coming-- watery eyes and that unmistakable feeling in my chest. I fought it. not under these harsh fluorescent lights, I thought. not in front of the security person who looked ridiculously bored, not while I was struggling with a wayward purse strap and wondering if my feet smelled. I stuffed the sadness someplace in the back where I knew it would be safe, someplace I might never get around to finding it. I walked towards the gate.

and then all of the sudden we were taking off. I swear I felt my stomach drop seventeen different times. I kept my eyes wide open, though. I didn't want to miss anything.

17 comments:

  1. oh, this is so beautiful and sad all at once. i have lived that experience. i hate goodbyes, i try hard to avoid using that word in my vocabulary.

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  2. ouch. i'm afraid of that 'missing' feeling you've described. soon, my little brother will move 2 states away and it will be the farthest i'll have ever been away from someone in my nuclear family. it scares me.

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  3. What a great post - I totally relate since my sister lives in NYC, in the apartment we used to share. I especially love the bit about the spotlight and the clove cigarettes. :-)

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  4. God Andrea, you blow my mind with your words on a regular basis. I wish I knew that kind of love. I have three brothers and only talk to one, and that is only a couple times a year...and surface level. I envy that type of closeness. Thank you for sharing with us.

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  5. Saying goodbye to someone you love can be awful, but I think that the joy you feel when you see them again (or even just the anticipation of that feeling) makes it bearable.

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  6. I got all teary-eyed thinking of my own goodbyes, each time we leave California. I am so in denial, that I don't even fathom that it could be the last time.
    I despise flying so much that the next time we go, I'm going to remember your words here because you make take-off much more magical than I do.

    It was great to spend time with you ~ I hope you do figure out the job that will have you here regularly. xoxo

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  7. Perfectly written- You words are always so honest and heartfelt. Von is lucky to have a sister like you (and vice versa).
    xoxo

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  8. you manage to find words for feelings, we think, cant really be expressed!! brilliant!

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  9. love that imagery, "giant glittery garlands draped over the city"... and how sweet a post!

    i hope too you will find that dream job that takes you there frequently and that perhaps you'll hire me...(so i can go too!)

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  10. girl, you've made me cry...welcome back..

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  11. ah... NY - does it to you every time... and i'm with you on the goodbye. it NEVER gets easier....

    and if you do find that job... i want in too [you me and jan... how fun would that be??]
    xo

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  12. This made my eyes well up.
    I struggle not to cry sometimes when I say bye to my family - even though they only live hours away. The one time I went to NYC I looked out the window at take off. It was nighttime and the skyline looked like you described except I saw it through tears as I simply allowed the emotion to some out as I left that city.

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  13. I have been a reader for some time and I wanted to delurk to tell you how beautifuly I think you write. I've never been to the City (and I've been going to college in Upstate NY for 3 years) and the way you write about it is just like I imagine it. Your writing pretty much blows me away the rest of the time too.

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  14. hey hula girl...this is a beautiful post and beautifully written. thanks for taking me on your NYC adventure! I have lived in and near NYC my entire life, but I love to hear about what it is like to truly visit this place I know so well.

    hope your transition back to life down south was smooth.

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  15. sound like you caught it all... every moment you brave hearted girl :)

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  16. Now that was a great blog! You have a way with words, to say the least! Saying goodbye is so hard, and it never gets easy....probably harder as one gets older...Thank you for the blog. love you!

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  17. Been diggin' on your blog for a while. Thanks for the beauty in the everyday.
    I think we are all planning your next trip... not just you. For me, I have been gone from the City for too long to realize that the Cupcake has a spot on 18th in Chelsea! Next time, maybe go to the [next-door-to-the-original] one on 9th Ave; check out Hell's Kitchen and the markets over there. In the meantime, check Rion [below] out for photo inspiration and a loving 5-year tribute to the city. Some southerners don't like the City; I am really pleased that you seem to embrace it in the same way you embrace everything else: with love and joy. Peace, Andrea.
    http://www.rion.nu/v5/archive/000466.php

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