Given the eve of eschatological judgement that looms over us, I post something I wrote for my literature class. It is an experience that has comprised my being for the better part of four months. Only recently am I slowly coming to terms with it, and more importantly, growing from the devastation that it caused. I could pretend I am stronger. I could pretend that I am wiser too. But when I look back on it, I am neither of those things. Instead, I think it’s best to say that we all have our own apocalypses and they only end when our worlds are shattered, our heaven has been absorbed by the gravity of hell, and whatever part of us that held on to the hope of things getting better ends as well.
I wish I had driven slower.
The car rumbles its last exhausted cough as the doors open hesitantly. We stand near them, hanging our hands onto the handles long enough to stir an air of suffocation. Each movement is reluctant; each step is counted down as if it were echoing in the hallway of death row. Left, right, left, right, and I find myself grabbing the bags in the trunk. You look at me with eyes anchored by tears and unshakeable disbelief. You look at me with my eyes – eyes that wish to gaze on the whole of the world, eyes that mirror my slightly nuanced green, eyes that have seen, did, and felt what I felt for twenty years – and when you do, you see that I’m crying too.
Above us, the bellowing roar of flying metal made miracles reminds us that time is passing, and with it, each breathe becomes shorter, each cough that much longer. Dad, with a face beet-red and hands wrinkled and worn, looks as though he’s caught in the awkward limbo between an inhale and an exhale. It’s not exactly relief but not exactly exasperation either. He’s sullen, sunken by the gravity of the scenario yet unable to do anything against it. In a perverted way, he blames himself, and despite surviving the pangs of starvation, a flurry of gunshots, and the ruby red imprint of his best friend’s life pouring into his hands, I know he has never felt weaker.
It’s funny. Ironic, really. He left his country in the hopes of finding a better life only to have his kin crawl back into his forgotten footsteps. Maybe he regrets it – immigration, his career, the entire situation. I’m not sure. All I know is that as we stand there with bags haphazardly herded around us like cattle before the slaughter, he swallows down a pill. Peace, for a while at least.
My Mom watches everything unfold with the ghost of optimism. Usually she’d voice some words of comfort cultivated by years of motherly existence, but today she is silent. Tissues leaf through her faintly red hands instead of aphorisms, and she offers a weak, fleeting smile to anyone who cares to look. I try to imagine what she could be thinking. I’m rocketed to a place of artificial whiteness and chemicals and people solemnly seeking sympathy in between diagnoses. I hear feet scurrying along tiled floors. I see sweat, blood, one head then two. I feel the warmth of gloved hands in an otherwise cold world. I understand statistical impossibilities, overarching uncertainties, and infinitesimal probabilities. I watch two parents cry until they are dehydrated. And I believe in miracles, or at least the two-pound two-ounces variety.
But those times are long gone, and I’m brought back to the present where people have grown, things have changed, and life has happened. In this parking lot filled with the reckless abandon of empty cars, I find myself somewhere in between, helplessly staring at everyone around and wishing that I could do something against it all.
But I can’t. You can’t. No one can. So instead, you prod us forward. “We should probably get …” The last words are lost in a hard gulp. A kiss flutters on your cheek. Her. She gives you one more softly on the lips. It’s like a signature. I manage to wrangle out a smile her way because in times of unrelenting difficulty, she mazed around your goose bumps and mapped out your veins with just a fingertip. It was always like that. In the very beginning, when time was deemed as arbitrary and when there was no other word for it but love, you found comfort in her when I couldn’t give it. Even now she holds your hand as tight as possible, perhaps to imprint herself in your palm. It’s only natural: at the end of every journey, even this one, you’ll find lovers. Penelope and Odysseus. Romeo and Juliet. You and her.
The two of you walk behind us as we all drag ourselves onward, our feet crunching against the pavement. The airport is packed with other travelers. We find the ever predictably large check-in line and for a while, we feel like mannequins. Like them, we stare, we stand, we wait, and after an eternity and back, we somehow find ourselves at the gate, hollowed out by our emotions and tears.
This is it. The end. Nothing is said between us. Instead, you say everything without expressing a word. You hug each one of us with weak, limp arms. As you wrap yourself around me, I whisper, “You are so strong. So, so strong.” You hold tighter.
You and Dad pass through the gates, signaling the end of one odyssey only to start another. We wait around, hoping that we’ll get one last look at you. Both Mom and her can’t take seeing you again only to have you torn away, and they ask to go home. But you are my home – a collection of memories I have built my entire life around. I look back and see the very moment you gave me my scar or when you were afraid to dive but did it anyways or that time we sat with wide grins on our face as we peed in Lake Ontario. I see a lifetime of you and I, and I can’t imagine my life any other way.
So I stand unmoving. I wait. I hold my breath. Then, I see you through a narrow opening, and I yell, “You’re still here? Leave already.” You laugh. Oh, how you laugh.
But it’s fleeting and you’re moving again and our eyes gaze on you fading in the distance like a sunset that will one day rise. As you blow your final kiss goodbye, all three of us are caught trying to catch it. It is the end. A finality. And it’s told in kisses.
I’d like to believe there will be a happily ever after, but as we wait for an eternity to see you again, you never show. In your absence, this place means nothing to us now. We hesitantly decide it’s time to leave. Wind whistles through the parking lot’s doors as we step outside, and I am reminded again of Odysseus. “Never once did the wind fail once the gods have set it blowing.” I look up to inky, jet-black sky, and I hope, I pray, and I beg that some god will step down from Heaven or Olympus or whatever and help us in these last moments.
Yet as we walk, nothing changes, no wisdom is imparted to me from a divine disguised as a distant traveler, and you are probably boarding your flight. A chill greets us as we open the doors to the parking lot, and as I turn my head away from the empty jury table in the sky and back to the reality at my feet, I walk in silence. It is raining outside.