I left many places, many people, many times. I packed my bag following the same immutable ritual countless times: my sleeping bag at the bottom with plastic sandals, towel, sweaters and other light clothes piled up. A plastic bag at the top with shampoo, soap – the bare minimum yet enough to be clean and neat. Underwear in the side pocket, socks in the other. Laundry detergent. Toilet paper. A small photo album. My bag is light but my head is heavy.
I arrive and I leave. Me llaman el desaparecido, cuando llega ya se ha ido, volando vengo, volando voy, deprisa deprisa a rumbo perdido…
Arriving is the easy part, even in a foreign country. The excitement of living something fresh and new takes over.
But leaving is painful, especially when people are involved.
I was in France last Fall to visit my family for a few weeks. A few days before flying back to Canada, I spent the day with an old friend of mine. After many cups of café, we dropped by my parents’ place where I was staying to pick up a sweater. The nights were going cold and we wanted to spend more time together, from cafés to restaurants, from restaurants to bars, from bars to chatting in the streets, seated downstairs the building when everything would be closed, like we always did.
My mum heard us in the stairs and opened the door. She greeted my friends and joked around, but I could tell she had been crying.
“You’re not actually leaving on Monday Zhu, are you ?”, she said, knowing the answer. “You know I am mum, I have to get back to work…”.
My sister had just graduated from high school and was to attend University in Paris, 400 km away. I had my life in Canada. Me dicen el desaparecido, fantasma que nunca está, me dicen el desagradecido, pero esa no es la verdad…
My friend and I left and headed to the coffee place. We sat at a terrace, and ordered drinks.
I looked down, closed my eyes, broke down and cried.
I buried my face in my hands and sobbed uncontrollably. My friend stared at me for a second, unsure of what to say or what to do.
— Zhu, what’s wrong ? Talk to me !
— It sucks ! It sucks ! I’m leaving again, my mum is crying because of me and I feel like I’m betraying everyone around me ! I show up once a year, I feel out of place, I speak English to everyone and forget my French, I changed, I changed !
— Aren’t you happy in Canada ?
— Yes I am. You know I am. Everyone knows it, but how can I ever enjoy my happiness thinking of all the people I left behind ? I feel like a fucking stranger here and I’ve only be gone for a few years. What if I have kids ? What if they don’t understand French and can’t communicate with my own parents ? What am I supposed to do ? I’m torn apart. A feet on one side of the Atlantic Ocean, the other on the other side. And I don’t even know where my brain is most of time !
— But everyone leaves home sometimes. I rarely see my parents and I’m only a few hundreds of kilometres away myself. I don’t jump in a train every weekend, nobody does. It would be the same for you if you has stayed in France.
— It’s different. Or maybe not. But it doesn’t make me feel any better.
— What would ?
— A big fucking bridge between Europe and North America ! Better : a reverse continental drift !
— Yeah, right, then you’d go to Antarctica cause you’d be too close to home !
I had stopped crying – it was about time, I guess everyone though we were having a fight.
The following Monday, I took the 6:12 train to Paris, CDG. I waited for my train, smoking and watching the sky brightens. I didn’t cry. I stood there, my backpack on the ground, my ticket in my hand. Yo llevo en el cuerpo un motor, que nunca deja de rolar, llevo en el alma un camino, destinado a nunca llegar…