Airports have always been magical places.
Growing up, it means the start of an adventure somewhere far away. No worries cloud your mind as you run beside the travelator, small hands holding onto your mother’s soft ones as you try to keep up with her long strides. Takeoff and touchdown had you cuddled tightly into your father’s side, the fear quickly forgotten once the pretty lady with orange juice came around.
Ten years later, it greets a new chapter in your life. An idealistic youth trying to find your place in the world and you don’t understand. Why the kisses linger and the hugs are a tad bit tighter. You hear the slight shake in your mother’s voice and your father’s fond gaze as if he’s trying to memorise the sight of you. You’ll send them pictures, you say, and you promise to video call them everyday but they only ever smile back and give your hand another squeeze.
Looking out the airport windows, you finally realise. It has always been one sided. It has always been you smiling back at them as you pulled your bags behind you. It has always been you doing the leaving. And once in awhile the tables are turned. And you find yourself watching unblinkingly as they pass the security gates and disappear from view. You stand there for a minute longer, wondering if you told them you loved them enough. The warmth of that last hug still imprinted on your skin and a fear crawl up your spine, your blood chill at the thought of what if you never saw them again. It hits you like a bucket of ice thrown over your head and your heart clenches– beating, but aching.
You know you’ll see them again. God-willing.
And you finally understand, that this is just the pain– of the one left behind.
Mom and Dad are off to complete Hajj and I write this as I wait to be back in their loving embrace.