Please forgive me, stranger on the plane. You sit beside me plugged into your music and I keep to myself with my nose in my book. But the unrequited love of my novel or the aerial view of expansive rows of agriculture remind me of the world I am leaving behind. My nose crinkles up and one tear escapes; but then I begin to weep full hot tears of spicy tacos and the dim lighting of our mosquito-infested Frisbee fields, of dodging horse dung and grasshoppers on the short walk to class and the meaningful talks Maggie and I would dive into on the bus rides to avert our attention from the lunacy of traffic.
I was feeling completely discombobulated when we disembarked the plane. Everything was shiny and flashing and on sale. I stared up at the screens displaying departures to every corner of the world until I saw him for the third time. He’d been napping on the plane a row ahead of me. He’d let me pass him in security as he juggled his shoes and luggage. Now he sidled up to my right and we fell in step as we headed for the same plane to Seattle. I got so lost in conversation with this nice guy from Cuernavaca that I forgot that I’d been overstimulated and upset...and where we were going. But getting lost in the huge terminal was of little consequence as my entire being sighed with the familiarity of our common tongue. Sometimes God sends us angels when we need them the most.
And now as my mom and I wind our way up and down the West Coast, carving out our play time for just us, I am playing my own game. I am playing tug of war between the present and the past as I embrace the fall weather and the vampires offering me Snickers bars and waterfalls and pancakes. I want to appreciate this adventure as an isolated chapter – a fantastic opportunity to pioneer the West with my best friend and my inspiration. But even in the most serene moments, life’s not as simple as mojitos and scenic drives, because this journey is bridging the gap between what was and an unknown future. Not only am I marching into unemployment in my parents’ basement, which I know will inevitably unfurl into another impactful pile of life lessons and business ventures, but I am being hurled into American life like a trans-national human cannonball. I’m learning how to adapt to hurling. So while I’m trying to savor every morsel of these pumpkin pancakes, I’m also lost in the memories of the place I just left. My heart is aching for my friend – he never stops laughing, never stopped holding me up, but he must be so exhausted from studying full time and caring full time for his ailing mother. I left another friend in the midst of emotional turmoil and all I want to do is hug her. I close my eyes and over the Deep South accents discussing music in the seats behind us, I can hear Augustín panting as he streaks up the hill to arrive first to class, and Dona Rosa’s cow mooing off in the distance. My heart was on the mend when I left Mexico – I had scooped up the bits and held them together every night as I curled into my squeaky bunk bed, but as it had a tendency to break apart in its fragile state, I’m not sure if every fragment made it into my overweight baggage.
On the outside it looks like we haven’t a care in the world. But you can’t see my tug of war game - my heart torn between worlds. I can’t explain why I marvel at toilets with seats that actually flush paper or why I would return to a land without them. I can’t explain why I love the smells of donkey dung, burn piles and myrrh. I can’t explain why fourteen children or teammates who may never bridge the gap of ever-lasting friendship made such a deep impression in my soul. Consequently, I can’t explain why I am testy and impatient; why I have such a profound sense of ache and longing when the scenery from this train is beautiful, the food is rich, the company is sweet and the future is bright (albeit unilluminated). The best advice I’ve gotten so far is fake it til you make it. My friend was talking about love, but I think it’s applicable here too – just power through and live in the moment and eventually the energy you pretend to have will seep into your real mindset. One can only hope.