After putting my shoes back on, I wave him goodbye from the other end of the magnetic band. The security officer asks me to move aside so other travelers can come through. The old woman that watched us say our goodbyes is now standing next to me and throws me an empathetic smile.
The bag where I carry my family’s things is heavy: dad’s useless requests, a couple of things for my sister, something my mother needs. I feel my arm becoming weaker every moment. Shortly after, I learn that the gate where I’m supposed to board is at the farthest end of this terminal.
When I finally get there and take the last available seat, a woman asks me to please fill out a survey. I’m about to reply when I look at her face, and her watery gaze strikes my chest: I change my mind.
Struggling against the gravity imposed on her face, she does her best to smile. The grin barely drawn on her face reveals that lethargy still pending from hope’s thread. I take the sheet and scribble through the paper’s inquiries: Name(s), Last name(s), Age, Gender… And then, a complete blank: Place of departure. I rest the pencil’s tip on the paper: sitio de embarque. I look up and wait. There is nothing in particular to watch or gaze upon, but I’m looking for the answer. After a moment I look down again. One more thorn: Duration of the trip. Blank… I’m in New York. I’m going to Mexico. Only for 13 days. I haven’t left New York for over a year. Yes, logic leads only to one conclusion, and yet I refuse to answer based solely on facts. I won’t write down that which would utterly refute what for me is the truth. Printed on a piece of paper: vacation in Mexico. Even the word to designate the place sounds odd for the first time… I think of so many foreigners spending their holidays in Mexico: clashing colors, minds convinced of the warmest weather, an exoticism epitomized, feared spices and discovered flavors; a trip to remember. I have never lived in that place. The green of the buses or the baby’s sneakers hanging from the rear-view mirror – our own particular glimpses interpreted as surreal— never seemed anything other than common to me, to all of us. In my mind, it is the same place I saw with daily eyes and a somewhat yellowish optic effect – so similar to a picture taken in the 70’s. How is it then that this round trip is bound to end in La Guardia Airport? Round: to close a cycle, echoes in my mind. My sister’s voice pop’s up: “Here where?”, she asked me on Skype that time – I start to feel my head recoiling from my neck – when I was talking about the place we were at. For a moment, I had actually been fooled and felt she was next to me, that we were together and that I could say here. Very similar to those times when she watched me try to find and kill a water bug, or when I went to the grocery store and almost brought back the cheese she needed for the recipe I had just given her. She was here: laughing at me while I took refuge on top of an ottoman and used a broom as a paddle –and a weapon; waiting, inside my apartment while I went to the store on the corner; even when we stopped talking and kept doing other things with the camera on. We could still see each other (she always loved to stare at aquariums). I try to decipher while I recall these things, but my memory starts to fade. Only a static image of a created memory plays inside my head. My friend, whose girl was on the other side of the world, asked her to leave the computer on at night. She would go to bed, and so he would stay: in front of the screen, writing, and trying to hear – or perhaps to imagine – her breath, or the sounds of her body twisting and turning against the sheets. I can’t help spiraling down: I never sleep the night before I travel. My hands remain tight, trying not to let the pencil drop.
“Her grandmother did exactly the same. Except that she left without telling anyone, and came to the city with my father. She had nobody here. Not even her children. She didn’t have someone from her side. But that was the choice she made, you know?”… My mother tells Alex something he decides to believe without having the same blood; what somebody remembers as if it were an experience of their own; what I realize to have known even since before.
—Oh, I’m sorry! I think this is yours…
The boarding process has started, and a woman who has stumbled on my legs, wakes me up and returns my pencil. I take it and look for its owner, to also return the survey sheet. She is nowhere to be found around the gate. While I get in the line, I still look around to see if I can spot her and ask her the correct answer for those questions.
Illustration by Miozitis Pumarol.