Let Me Come Home
I walked hysterically through the departure gates, trying to comprehend how I would spend the next three months away from family on my first long stint overseas. With a bunch of firm hugs from my less emotive boyfriend, and eager to run amuck with the duty-free samples, I brushed away the anxiety and found comfort in the fact that the internet can bring my family to me.
For 14 hours, I soared through the expanse of cloud that occupied the gap between home and what I’d hoped would be the adventure of a lifetime. I was a mess of emotions and turbulent thoughts, but as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one. Far below me, and in a world out of reach, was the unprompted decay of 22 years of marriage in all its love and light.
To me, home was my family unit inside its four comforting walls and that is how it would stay. Once my travels were over, I would return to a familiar routine and it’d be me who’d look upon life with fresh eyes and an altered perspective. I was fixated on the idea that the concept “home” meant my home in the literal sense. But I’ve since come to realise how fragile this concept can be.
Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays and a plethora of new and exciting experiences threaded throughout my trip did not pass by without a quick video call to my parents. Constantly comparing daily news and the raging summer temperatures, I had a desire to see how my little beachside town was progressing without me.
And progressing it was. Just not how I’d ever imagined.
It still haunts me to look back on those calls and now notice the hurt in my mum’s eyes; that while my parents sat seemingly comfortably together in the frame of my outstretched phone, everything I saw was an act. The tears and the “I miss you”s suddenly all make sense: so too do the unusually scarce messages I got from Dad.
What was meant to be an act of shielding me from pain and confusion turned me into a ball of whimpering limbs filled with guilt and regret. I wasn’t there for my mum when she needed me most. I wasn’t there for my brother to save him from his thoughts. I wasn’t given the chance to grieve, or grow, or find my groove in this new family dynamic that unfolded so rapidly. Instead, I was propelled into some very murky waters that others had been given months to wade through.
I felt cheated, I felt lied to and I felt so very lost. Whose story was I supposed to listen to? Whose side was I supposed to take? When will I see my dad next, and does he even want to see me?
Feeling far less than fresh, the cabin air clinging unwillingly to my under-washed clothing, heavy eyelids kindly cooperating thanks to the racing of my heart, I searched the crowded airport gate for my dad’s mess of blonde hair above others’. Two beaming faces scurried forward with open arms – of course Mum was crying.
I still had no inkling of their separation.
I had this idea that I’d come home to my safe place: where dressing gowns are daily attire, there’s a constant supply of chocolate in the fridge and my brother and I bicker and argue purely for the sake of it. We’d all sit down for a home-cooked meal and pretend Mum’s cooking is top notch, while I’d hastily blurt out the most memorable moments (perhaps leaving out what really happens in Colombia) and provide a makeshift slideshow of amateur photography to prove I went here and there.
The elation of travel and the heart-warming familiarity of being within physical reach of all my loved ones abruptly shattered when I went to walk inside and Dad didn’t follow. He couldn’t, he said.
“I don’t live here anymore.”
It was a statement so absurd the only thing I managed to muster in response was a half-hearted laugh.
“You’re joking, right?”
Within minutes, my heart had sunk to the pit of my stomach and I was gasping for breath amidst trying to understand how a summer apart can mean goodbye to a home I thought was unbreakable.
Of course travelling had “changed” me, but I didn’t think coming home ever would. I can comprehend the decision to keep me out of the loop, forcing me to have fun overseas despite the crumbling ties I’d left behind. But I quickly learned there’s no guidebook for being homesick when you’re already back.
I just wanted to come home.
I still do.
Cover by Moline