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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Where My Heart Belongs

It was strange, really, how she'd never thought she could go back. She'd wanted to, those first days, those first years. She'd wanted to return so desperately, but there was no money. She was on a visa and she couldn't leave the country. She couldn't go home.

She dreamed about it, told all her friends she would be coming back to visit. But in the beginning she had just a few dollars to spend, so she bought a yellow-lined notepad to keep as her journal, and on that notepad she wrote about how she wanted to go home. She planned to save up her dollars until she had enough to buy an airline ticket. They weren't cheap, even 14 years ago.

The years slipped by. After six of them, she was able to see her grandparents again. They too, lived across unfriendly oceans, and had aged so suddenly. Another two years and she started to work, carefully putting away a little savings to buy car insurance, and then another ticket to see her grandparents. Each visit to them was combined with a renewal of a visa so she could return to where her family lived and continue studying, then later, working.

Finally her sister moved to yet another continent, and she went to visit. She splurged on a discount ticket and enjoyed a blissful five days walking the streets, eating the Pakistani curry wraps, and feeling the salt spray as they took a ferry ride. She flew to her best friend's graduation and then later to see her when she moved for her job. Each trip was anticipated with much excitement and enjoyed thoroughly.

Then her brother said, "I'm going home." His school was planning a trip, they were raising the funds, and in a few weeks they would be stepping onto a huge jet ready to fly them to that country. They were excited because it was a new adventure for them. She stood to the side and watched. She knew she couldn't go, as yet again life intervened and dictated what she should be doing next. She decided that she would plan her own trip and go on her own timetable sometime in the future.

She was afraid, though. Scared that she wouldn't go, even if she wanted to. There was the all-too-cruel reality that regardless of how bad she wanted something, fate seemed to delight in ensuring that she would not find happiness in fulfilling her dreams. Being responsible meant putting her heart in a dark box and burying it in a wooded forest, perhaps to be retrieved when she turned 70 or so.

So she stood to the side and watched, as she had done with so many other dreams it seemed. They would be leaving soon, and already she dreaded the day they would return. They would have stories of amazing miracles, be excited to share what they had learned, laugh and sing and be overnight experts on the cuisine and customs. She wouldn't listen, she couldn't, because all she would know was that they got to go and she didn't. She couldn't go home.

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