I’ve been planning this trip for six months, and now, finally, we leave tomorrow. I’m going to the States for the first time since my mom died. It’s been about two and a half years.
I meant to go last year, but then I got this job that was supposed to only be for twelve months and I didn’t want to take a whole month out from it. Then the job got extended and I tried get it sorted around my work schedule and my sister’s work schedule, because part of the original reason for making the trip at all was to sell Mom’s house on the island. We decided not to do that this year but it’s not clear what’s going to happen with that same job that got extended, and I thought I may as well take annual leave and get paid to go for a long visit when I had the chance. I bought (most of) the tickets in February or so and have spent quite a lot of time since then planning: lots of cross-country flights and driving around, lots of reservations and booking numbers and calendar alerts. Lots of strategizing for the flight to Auckland and then the flight to San Francisco and then the flight to New York, and all the flights after that.
I’m spending the bulk of the time in Florida, in Miami and in Tampa, with a bit of time in New York on the way there and a bit in California on the way back. Since G is coming too, and since this will be his first time in the States, we’re going to do a lot of touristy things that I don’t normally do when I’m there: the Everglades and Coral Castle and Alcatraz, the Museum of Natural History and the Winchester Mystery House. There will also be a lot of visiting and a lot of eating and a lot of shopping and a lot of wandering around and hanging out. I’m just plain looking forward to some time off from work and from winter. The bags under my eyes are feeling deeper and wider than ever before, you know?
We’ll be on the island for ten days: café con leche and walks on the beach and even the Fourth of July parade, which I haven’t been to since I was in college. But how can I go there, how can I be there without her? I know I was there right after the memorial, but if I hadn’t written about it I don’t know that I would have any memory of it today. As far as I’m concerned I have never been home without her; she is what made the island home. There is a part of me that really thinks, on a rational, logical, very adult level, that she’ll be there to pick me up from the airport in the evening with a ham sandwich on Cuban bread, that we’ll talk all the way home about school, about work, Charleston,. She’ll have made the bed up for me and that the cats will be waiting at the door for us. I can see it so clearly that I am afraid that I will accidentally keep driving to her house when I get there.
But we’re going, anyway, my lucid dreaming aside. I’m going: to her memorial tree at Fairchild and on the bridge over the bay where we gave the ashes back. My bags are packed and my out-of-office email is set up. My plans are made. The last time I went, I had to pack up my entire flat for the subletter, the same flat at which my mom came to visit me four years ago, in which I am currently sitting on one of my new couches. Back then I was out of my mind with fear and worry and I could barely make it into the cab; this time I have packing lists and itineraries and well wishes from friends and workmates that I have a good holiday.
It was G, by the way, who took the day off work and helped me clean and got my stuff into storage for me. That was my ‘good friend.’ He lives with me in this flat now and sits on the new couches and will never meet my mom but he’s coming with me this time anyway: to the island and back again.