At this point in typical traveler blogs, there is an unspoken expectation that I will discuss my feelings as I leave home– the surge of emotion and tangled thoughts as I drift off into a new space.
I thought about this traditional narrative trajectory, but I don’t feel like writing it. I’m just going to give you a run-down of how I spent my last days and my packing list (in the next post). Very mundane. But maybe in reading these details you can get a more honest sense of what really occupied my mind as I left. Maybe I did include that emotional stuff. I don’t know.
Don’t feel obligated to read anything I write.
MY LAST DAYS
Phone rang at 2:30 in the Monday morning the day of my GRE exam. My sister’s name burns my eyes. She’s lucky I love her. I pick up.
“Brother called. Open the door for him. He says he’ll be there in five.”
I lay on the cold sofa downstairs in a ball, until I hear footsteps approach the house. I open the door long enough to see him emerge from the shadows. He starts to speak but I’m so desperate to catch my sleep I just leave him standing in the doorway. I wind up staying up until 5:30, so I weave in and out of studying GRE content until I pass out on my bed.
Light comes into my room and with it a hallway full of shrieking children. My nephews and niece are up. As I enter the hall, they immediately quieted. I’m that mean aunt. The one that makes them do their homework, eat their vegetables, stand in corners, and verbalize their wrongdoings. Even though I also take them out to the zoo, teach them to read music and sing, and cook them their favorite foods, that is not what they remember me by.
I send them off to school and head back to the warmth of my bed. I study a handful of GRE flashcards, half-asleep. I dress and shower. I wake my brother and take the test. I talk on the phone with my sister to calm my nerves as I wait for my brother to come pick me up.
“How do you think you did?”
“They already gave me the scores. I think I did well on the verbal, but I ran out of time on the Math. Should I retake it? I should retake it.”
I go home and talk about the test some more with my dad and my mom and my sister. I am in a GRE-centric universe. It’s all I’ve done for two weeks and all I can think about.
Shit. I haven’t packed.
Do I pack? Nope. Instead I go out to have a green tea soy milk latte and a vegan chocolate chip cookie at Urth Cafe with a friend.
Tuesday comes and I don’t want to get out of bed. So I don’t. I make last minute plans to meet up with friends for dinner. Text everyone that matters. I see seven of them, grabbing tea afterwards in the SGV. Green Tea (Soy) Ice Cream Cooler. Did I mention I really like matcha green tea. I really like matcha green tea.
It’s Wednesday and I really should pack now.
I think I’ll do it later. I tell my sister to tell my brother to take me to the airport at 8 pm for my 11:30 flight. I spend the morning taking care of last minute emails at the local library. When I come back my sister hugs me and says goodbye before she heads to work. I didn’t think and I could have almost missed her. I’m glad I got home.
I finish packing around 4:30 and rush to catch the bus to Little Tokyo.
Forgot to call the bank so that they don’t freeze my account.
“After business hours.”
Maybe I can talk to a rep in person? I run to the Little Tokyo branch. It’s past five. They just closed. I see the little guy in the building. Fuck you little man for taunting me through the glass without even seeing me.
Ugh. Whatever. No point in being upset. I cal my sister to pretend to be me tomorrow and call the bank. I give her all sorts of personal information as I go through the Japanese Village Plaza [What was I thinking? Was not thinking.] to see my summer internship supervisor. I hesitatingly open the door. I’ve never been sure if he secretly hates me. He smiles and gives me a hug. I feel less scared. I chat with him and his coworker for nearly an hour. Most of the time I’m just thinking. “Just say something so it’s not awkward.” “Ugh, why did you say that?”
I tell them about my plans. About my thoughts on grad school; the fact that I don’t have a place to stay in Taiwan yet. I get called nonchalant. I will spend the rest of the night thinking about this word. I leave when we move onto the topic of marriage and quarter life crises. “You’re old, too, you know.” “Don’t do a PhD, it’s too long.” Too much. Too serious. I get that from my mom, thank you very much. Bye.
I go see my other supervisor and make small talk with a bunch of people I don’t really want to talk to. I should really care. It’s about Asian Americans in the Media. It sponsored by the Asian Jewish Initiative. But I just came to see her. I feel more and more detached from the situation so I leave. I catch the bus back. I swallow a bowl of rice and stir-fried celery, kiss the kiddos and tell them to be good, say goodbye to my dad and run into his car. My mother is waiting in the backseat. My brother is driving.
We drive and talk about stupid things on the way. I forgot what. All I can sense is the smell of fish that my brother ate for dinner. The highway curves in that familiar way, the same lit-up buildings, the exit warning me that LAX is approaching and this is all over soon.
The international terminal is in front of me. My brother gets out to grab my bags and drag them onto the sidewalk. I get out to help. My mom stays in the car. She won’t even look at me. I stand by the door for a while confused until I remember all the times in the last few weeks I’ve ignored her commentary on how I shouldn’t go and that I should go to graduate school in something that makes money. And she doesn’t even want me to go to graduate school, because “all this education is making you crazy” and “You don’t have to get married yet, but heavens why study for so long. All the good ones will be gone by the time you get out.” I think she’s coping with the reality of having a daughter who could have given her what she wanted but chose not to. Always practical, never emotional. I hug my brother goodbye and stand in line for my flight.
My shoulders heave into a sigh. It’s such a long line for people with baggage. With an even longer ride ahead.