The Farewell

There will come a time when you're no longer going to, just running from. 

 

That time is now. 

 

You board your flight, the nerves on your hands twitching from the static of the crowded airport and the useless tricks up your sleeve. You let loose for a brief moment, letting your gaze traverse across the dazzling scene around you, one filled with metallic humming and lonesome minds of travelers too heartbroken to stay. You let out a sigh, and walk down the jet bridge to enter the plane. It is the summer of 2020, and you haven't been home for about 19 months. 

 

The pandemic has robbed you of the opportunity to even see your parents and give them a hug, let alone let you travel back to your home country to be with the friends and family that are your people and community. You wonder what they look like now, if the sycamore tree in your neighborhood is still standing, if mom still wears that navy blue winter coat when it snows and the heating in the apartment building is late, if grandma still laughs heartily at old stories of you at the dinner table after making you the best food… Love becomes a distilled clump of memories, memories become algorithmic emotions, emotions become blots of invisible ink on your mind. 

 

Days before you embarked on your trip home, your mother informed you over the phone that your grandmother is sick. A tight, heavy weight suddenly materialized above your heart. What do you mean sick, you ask. Cancer, your mom says across the screen, lung cancer. The moment you hear that term all the light in the room dies for a heartbeat, the weight drops, and a bit of yourself becomes soluble in tears. 

 

And by the time you arrive, you realize that things are never going to be the same. After teary reunions with loved ones you eventually reunite with yourself, the person that you left behind when you journeyed to America for school. It doesn't even surprise you when you fail to render his appearance. And quietly the two of you put your hearts in synchronous motion again, talking without sounds, remembering without bounds. You hug your grandmother tightly, wincing as her weakened body shivers ever so slightly upon embracing her grandson after a 2-year separation. You keep on raising your voice to tell her how much you miss and love her food at the lunch table because she can't hear anymore. You hold back tears as she looks away when she says goodbye to you and it's at that moment you realize you won't ever see her again. 

 

But hey, it's life and life only.

 

Summer is not as long as it used to be, you think, as the city that you grew up in for 15 years slowly melts into the rearview mirror. You've been traveling so much that going back on the road feels like homecoming. 

 

Is the past as tangible as a family picture or as magically translucent as a dream? You do not know. 

 

There will come a time when you're no longer going to, just running from. 

 

That time is now. 

Franklin Dong