Blazing Hellos, Fading Goodbyes

It was supposed to be my last trip home, to the country I grew up in.

I remember staring at everything as a numbness crept into my heart. Wow, twenty-two years, how do you say goodbye to something you’ve held dear for that long?

You don’t really know where to begin, so I just looked at the natural sepia all around and let out a silent beam of gratitude, hoping it would reach every last corner bend that made me into the woman I had become.

I was in a strange daze as we drove to the airport, a million memories whirling within. Memories of days that seemed so inconsequential. Like that time my uncle drove me to Sunday School instead of my father. Well actually, my uncle took me to my other uncle’s house, along with whose family I boarded the bus to Sunday School. That was so weird. I was so uneasy throughout that journey, every last part of it. But what seemed the most deftly etched in my mind was us driving past the telecommunication towers, with wires that zig-zagged cuts into the clear blue sky. And those birds, they were still there. Maybe they weren’t the same. They probably weren’t the same, but who could tell?

Maybe I’d come back someday, I thought. I didn’t know how to feel about that, but I just let that thought be.

We reached the airport, two hours before my flight. But the check-in lines looked arduous. It was Ramadan, and in a Muslim country that somehow translated into all the ground-staff leaving for a good forty-five minutes to break the fast. And I mean literally all the ground-staff. It made absolutely no sense.

It’s always less than a thrill to witness human beings in an unsupervised habitat when things are not going their way. Suddenly, logic flees the building and fear and paranoia enraptures them, turning them into beasts. People cutting the queue (what is with that extra -ue?!), yelling at each other, a random dude who anoints himself the pack leader and ultimate guardian, and lots and lots of chaos.

The staff returned, somehow having fed themselves and prayed restored their energy and divine right to be rude to the passengers, the passengers who by now had stood at a check-in line for nearly an hour and a half. I stood in the line until it was my turn to check-in. Finally! Or not..

The man at the counter looked at me confused and said “We are not accepting any more passengers for this flight. It is taking off soon, you should have come earlier.”

“I did come early,” I explained, rather calmly. I mean, I really did. There was no reason to panic, they would understand my situation, right? “I’ve been waiting in line for over an hour and a half. I came over two hours before my flight.”

“You should have told someone to check you in. It’s too late now,” he said, in a single breath.

I stared at him in disbelief. He was kidding, right? He WANTED me to cut lines and run around panicking in a frenzy?

“No one specifically called passengers from my flight to check-in. And all the counters were empty till fifteen minutes back.”

“You cannot take this flight,” he said. And that was that.

My father, who was standing a little away, decided to get involved once I got out of the line and told him what happened. He went to a customer service help desk nearby and began talking to a gentleman about what just transpired. Customer service was smartly planned. This man was somewhat of a dreamy character, tall, tanned, a perfect square jaw, a sultry accent and a drop dead gorgeous smile. I really did not want my father to argue with him.

But my father’s rage was seething, he is kind of like a dormant volcano, you just never know. He went at his future son-in-law (what? Maybe? You never know!) with an untameable vigor. The man said that he empathized with our situation and that he could pull some strings and perhaps get us a ticket free of charge for the next evening. My father would not have it.

“I don’t want your free of charge ticket!” he yelled.

“It would actually be quite nice..” my mother tried cutting it.

“You have the worst bloody airlines I have ever seen! Your service is terrible.”

“Why are you yelling at him? He is just customer service,” my mother tried again. “Let’s just leave, we can get a ticket for tomorrow.”

This is the part where my dad decided to rip apart the ticket in his hand. I knew I got my dramatic genes from somewhere!

“I will never book a ticket on your airlines again,” he proclaimed, storming off.

We were out in the parking lot as my father still kept muttering to himself a bunch of ‘never agains’.

“Wow, fantastic!” my mother proclaimed. “Do you think it’s going to make any difference to them if you, ONE customer, decide to never book a flight with them again? Instead, you could have just kept calm and gotten that ticket for free tomorrow.”

“I don’t want the ticket for free,” he said. No one spoke anymore. We drove back home in silence. I left the country in another few hours on another airline.

My mother thought that it was utterly foolish, the whole escapade. But for me it was a moment of awakening, to realize where my rage comes from, where my fire comes from, where my passion for what’s right comes from. It came from my father.

In a word where we are made to think that the only power is in numbers, I come from the bloodline of a man who believes that one action by one person can make an impact. Even if no one sees the impact, even if on the surface it looks as though it caused more of a loss than any reward, there is something about a person who believes that they matter, that the truth of their heart that shines through in a moment is important. But the sad reality was that our kind was too often looked at as foolish, as always being impulsive and never being able to see past an immediate rush of emotion. It’s true. It is so true that I sat down one day and decided to stop being that person. I decided to bury my fire.

I think that was the moment my fire showed me that it wasn’t something I could control. It awoke again and blazed a path before me that I still don’t quite understand. It’s tough to walk the path of fire. It burns most people in its way while clearing a walkway for me. Only the ones who know how to jump to the center at the exact moment make it.

While my fire has been blazing and burning over the past year, I’ve learned  once again how most things in life aren’t forever. But the fire will always be.

Four years ago I began writing because my fire moved me to be that one person who believes that her voice was important. While the truth is that I haven’t come much farther in terms of numbers, my fire has decimated more demons and churned more fears to dust than I could ever have imagined. And along the way, I’d like to believe that some of you have picked up a thing or two from here as well. So thank you, for staying, for reading, for the past four years.

It’s been a pleasure writing for me and being read by you!

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