I had bought my ticket for my return to the States in May and decided that I would do things a little differently. I preferred to tell people in person of my exact date of departure, as a sort of thank you for having called me to meet. If I just casually ran into someone in the street and they asked when I was going, I would say, “I have to be in LA in mid-September.” Which wasn’t wholly a lie; it was a half-truth. I just didn’t say that I’d be flying out of San Francisco, instead of Cancun.
This was also a method of sorts to combat the terrible habit of standing people up. I have had many a person call up to meet for coffee, only to be canceled on in the hours running up to the meet, punctuated with a “thank you for understanding.”
Well, I don’t understand. If you can, you can. If you can’t, you don’t.
So as the days waned, it all of a sudden went from three months to two weeks.
Maira, a good friend in Playa del Carmen, invited me out to go scuba diving and in the depths of the Caribbean, I found a still-closed bottle of Dos Equis, a barracuda, an emerald-green moray eel and perhaps the interest of a man who has yet to understand the fine art of communication.
I stayed with Maira and her boyfriend, Damian, that evening. It was then that I reminisced: Damian was the person who was there, laughing his tits off, when I decided mid-jump to change from a swan dive to a belly flop, resulting in a painful landing. He was the one who complained arduously about how fucking long was the bus ride down the peninsula, made even longer by the millions of stops the driver made, picking up every single person on the 212-mile-long freeway. He was also the one who held me as I cried, broken-hearted, as I got dumped, telling me that no man was worth my tears.
And that next morning, as they went off to work and I on my way to the bus station, I felt tears run down my face. It was real now. These two lovely people were going to exist far from me and that broke my heart.
It was then that I realized that I could not and would not be able to do a farewell party. I could not imagine exponentially multiplying that feeling and sensation. If this was what I felt with two people, I would not want to continue living if there was a room-full.
So in dutiful silence, I kept my secret. But the universe has a way of bringing people together and without knowing, people called to invite me out, only to find to their dismay that I would not be around to do so. That meant more to me than they could imagine because I felt their appreciation for our friendship and something brought them to call. Even in the airport in Cancun, I ran into a fellow swimmer and photographer, Juan Carlos, who told me that he always walks around that area and for the first time since he started that job, he had run into two people he knew in the same stretch.
The meltdown would come the day before my departure. I was left a very lovely letter from a woman who had only known me for a month but who stated I was the “nicest person” she knew. And that killed me. But when I thought I had my shit together and I was asked by Ursula how I felt, the words just broke me. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought of all that long string of things, people, food and life of a country that had been my home for 18 years. All the loves found and lost. All the family I had gathered. All the phenomenal experiences I’ve been a part of.
“I think that hair cut and styling was very symbolic,” Urs said, as she referred to an unexpected hair-treatment and cut I had earlier that day.
On the flight from Mexico City to Oakland, my seatmates were a lovely couple who were in Cancun for holiday. We spoke about life and our futures and they very kindly treated me to a drink as a “welcome back to the States” celebration. I gave them my info and they promised to call to meet.
In Oakland, for not declaring carefully my personal items, my luggage was searched. It was easily midnight when the official was finished with the interrogation and the revision. The interview was conducted in Spanish, as she wanted to practice and I think was sort of fascinated with a person like me.
I left the airport to look for my shuttle and was asked for my confirmation number, information which had been accidentally erased from my phone just moments before in a mad dash to find the boarding area, and even though I had fully paid for the service, I was not allowed to use it because I did not have the confirmation number. After a series of calls home with the few coins I had, I had let my parents know.
The evening was later filled with my father getting lost in downtown Oakland and asking a prostitute for directions and me, thinking that I can very well sleep in the terminal and ask my parents to come collect me later. What ended up happening was my father arrived at what was 4 am CST and us driving home in the wee hours of the morn, with him telling me that Oakland had become the murder-capital of California.
All in all, an interesting introduction back into the States.
So now the path opens up and there are a number of roads to choose from. Already I have begun to battle through doubt and wonder if I did make the right decision. But I find myself on a rope ladder with really only two ways to go (unless I wanted to jump): up or down. I cannot see the ground, nor can I see the next floor where I must place my feet. So I take comfort in imagining myself as a freediver: on one breath of air, I go down into the maw of the sea and must come back up if I am to do this again. Why would I do this again? Because it is a challenge and a way to see if I am worth my mettle. My lungs may be protesting. My ears may be dull with pain. My legs and feet may be pushing with all their might. But fear has never been a part of my vocabulary.
And I don’t tend to introduce it any time soon.
The sadness will linger, that I know. But the sadness will only be permanent if I don’t do what I came here to do.
Hasta pronto, Mexico.