Emily Rae Robles

the paradoxymoron

Flying Home

“Acute depressive disorder,” said the school psychiatrist, before ordering me to return home for a break from school.  “A bout of mental illness,” said my brother, before helping me notify my professors of my impending absence. “You need home,” said my mother, before calling in some last-minute frequent flier miles.  Now I sit in the airport, surrounded by people in transit, absorbing the loneliness carried by the bodies around me.

Who am I? Lost in a somewhere that could be anywhere, among rows and rows of people trapped in unresponsive bodies, surrounded by the putrid smell of sanitation.  Shall we clean away our community and separate our souls by scrubbing away our common germs? I feel the nothingness of this transience clinging to me, drawing me further into myself.  I am suffocated by inhumanity, strangled by despair.  Who am I?

I have a window seat on the flight home, thank goodness. I know it will be dark by the time we land in Portland, but my reflection in the lights of my home city will welcome me. The only thing that bothers me is that I won’t be able to see the trees. I never feel fully at home until I can breathe in the deep green of the trees that surround my house. Living in barren Southern California is tough on my soul.  It is because my soul is broken that I’m returning home to recover among the trees.

The trees do not belong to me, but sometimes I forget. We watch the world together, surrounded by life but unwilling to move from our position of comfort. Sometimes I sit in their branches, my eyes roving with their leaves across the neighborhood below. So many houses, so many people, so many dreams, so many memories, so many ideas, so much unwitnessed love. The trees are better able than I to comprehend the vastness of the world; they have been watching longer. The sky today, as on so many other days, is a pure white, unspoiled by pretentious blue. I can’t quite reach it, but when I’m with the trees, I feel almost like I could. My family may move, my neighborhood may change, but it is in the trees that I am at home.

I breathe the stale air of the plane slowly, my thoughts reviewing my last semester of school. The fast pace of life in Los Angeles often obscures my passions. I miss relaxing in front of the fire with a good book while the rain pounds outside the window (In LA, they have neither rain nor fireplaces.) I miss smelling the life that arises in the damp grass after a spring shower (In LA, they have neither grass nor the life that resides there.) I miss my family, the laughter that resounds against the hard wooden floors of our house, the music of the birds singing in the morning. I miss home.

The horizon is sucking the sun from the sky and into the clouds. It reminds me of a drop of blood emerging from a finger, but in reverse. If only all mistakes could be reversed this easily.  If only I could collect the scattered fragments of my brain and unite them as before.  Soon the strip of red on the horizon will be swallowed completely, and we will be flying through the thick darkness.  Darkness.  Warm and comfortable, perhaps, but unable to illuminate beauty.  I am reminded of the sunrise I saw on my last flight; the same red sun emerging on the horizon like a drop of blood, but its intensity soon dispersing across the sky and illuminating the world.  I find comfort in this.  Perhaps my mistakes and problems will not be more than a drop of red that will blaze out and light up my sky.

Home is only a few more pilot announcements away.  Three more songs on my iPod before the flight attendant gently taps my shoulder to remind me to turn off all electronic devices.  Then I will stare out the window again, willing the patchwork landscape to lift me up on its rolling hills and push me closer and closer to the broken chain link fence buried in pine needles and frozen mud, to the sky of layered gray that hangs heavy over a dampened world, to the crunch of gravel and splash of puddles as my family’s minivan pulls up to our house.

The thick dimensions of the clouds remind me of my swirling thoughts in which my mind is lost like a bird with no place to go.  As we descend through the clouds, swallowed by the darkness, I welcome the turbulence because it physically shakes my emotionally shaken world.  I relax into the uneven rhythms of air pockets until we pass through the clouds and into the clearness above the lights of Portland.  The sun is still setting, but someone else somewhere else is welcoming it as an emerging drop of blood.

I have pulled my seat upright and disposed of the plastic cup filled with ice tainted red from the cranberry juice it contained.  As the plane rushes towards the airstrip, I am suddenly filled with despair at the thought of being unable to fully enjoy the home I love.  I am not whole and home will not make me so. Will I still be able to love?

“No one worries,” say the clouds, “that we are afraid of falling.”

“No one thinks,” remarks the sun, “that I am afraid of burning.”

“No one asks,” cry the trees, “if we are afraid of crashing.”

“No one wonders,” moans the wind, “if I am afraid of ceasing.

The seatbelt light flickers off.  I wait until the last of the passengers have exited before I reach up to grab my carry-on.  The flight attendants smile well-worn smiles at me as I leave.  This time, walking slowly through the airport, I stop to wonder at the sheer number of people who pass through the city I love without even considering what makes it a home.  How many times have I done the same thing?  Suddenly, I am at peace with my brokenness.  Suddenly, all the rush and worry in the world drops into the background as I hurry to my waiting family.

I am a rail on the railroad, remaining stationary as the world rushes past.  I am a brick in the pathway, trampled by countless bodies with places to go.  I am asphalt on the highway, friends only with the wind that tries desperately to catch the rushing tires.  I am contentment, unafraid of what I am, unafraid of static, happy in my place, watching the world rush past the meaning they so desperately search for.

“Welcome home,” Oregon whispers.

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February 5, 2011 - Posted by | essayic, writings | , , , ,

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