Three. The number of trips I made to La Guardia Airport in Queens, New York this past weekend. Clearly it was not my week to be traveling, as those three trips resulted in only one flight to Guatemala.
For three days in a row I called a car service, checked my baggage and passed through security. And at the end of two journeys, I found myself at the ticket counter, minutes before boarding, giving up my seat for overbooked flights or convincing United I would miss my connecting flight in Houston. In essence, finagling a way to stay one more day and night in New York. After each trip, I would gleefully alert Lindsey I was in need of her couch again. After my second return, she gave me a set of keys to the apartment she shares with her husband. You just keep these, she said, because it seems like you may need them again.
It didn’t feel wrong, leaving New York four days ago. I knew I needed to leave. I had business to attend to in Guatemala – assignments to return to and an un-ending struggle to learn Spanish. I was anxious to see how the sudden change from warm and sunny to rainy and tropical exaggerated the greens of the mountains and volcanoes surrounding the San Juan house. I most certainly wanted ‘my bed’, or the closest thing I have to ‘my bed’, and to open my eyes every morning to streaming rays from the bright sun kissing everything in my room in the house without at address on 3a Avenida Norte in San Juan del Obispo. And of course people I now consider dear friends and confidants.
But it didn’t feel right. Leaving New York felt uncomfortable, the way a toothache feels in its first days, before there is a full-blown oral emergency requiring scary dentists but most certainly after something has gone, well, wrong.
I have certainly experienced this sensation before – a desire to not want to leave – before. This feeling haunts me towards the end of every visit. It actually haunted me hours before I hopped on a flight fleeing the city last July, when for months there was nothing I wanted more than to leave. Even as I packed my final suitcase and made my way to the airport, I had this feeling, a feeling that New York and I weren’t done.
It has haunted me when I have had to say excruciating goodbyes to people I love and support, and who love and support me, who for several short days put up with the tornado I bring through their lives on my visits. They humor me in my wanderlust, but want me In New York. On my visits they tentatively ask, usually after a few bourbons, when my plans to return will materialize. It lifts my heart to know they miss me there, only if it is a fraction of how much I miss them, their absence in my life like a gaping wound. It might not hurt so much, leaving, if this separation was someone else’s doing. But it is not. It’s mine.
The feeling pops up when I have several moments alone in New York, a quick coffee in my favorite café, or a walk over the Williamsburg Bridge. New York and I share many secrets, and it’s hard to not to crave my citizenship again, my hypothetical keys to the door of a place I know like the back of my hand. New York makes me smile, cry, blush and scream expletives at the top of my lungs, usually within five minutes of the one another. Surrounding myself with New Yorkers, I feel like I am a part of this oddly quilted clan, like a family. It’s alluring and sexy and ambitious and comfortable.
I know why I had to go all those months ago. There was nothing to do. When you are held under water and feel like you are drowning, the only thing to do when you are free is swim – quickly and with force – to the surface, gasping for air, everything in your wake ignored because you needed to breathe, to survive. Last year I needed to breathe. I needed to know if I could live without her, New York, and what that life could look like. I needed to know if I swam like hell for the surface, would there be a place to recuperate, to breathe. I found Guatemala in the process, and in it a whole new group of people and places and experiences I love and cherish and appreciate. When I left New York and that feeling haunted me, I was always happy to combat it with sunshine and scooters and tamales and beach trips and writing.
This trip felt different. Guatemala no longer felt like a place to breathe but a place to hide. A beautiful, temperate hiding place. A place to forget and a place that asks for little in return. Last year, I needed that, and I very well may need it again in the future. But on my walk over the Williamsburg Bridge last Friday, after I had already weaseled one extra day out of United, not only did I have pangs of longing to remain in New York, for the first time I didn’t want to go back to the mini-life I had created in Guatemala.
I wanted to stay.
I don’t have long, no. September will bring a new adventure. But for July and August, as short as they will be, I want to go back home. And I want to stay there.
Favorites from my W’burg Bridge Walk