I boarded the plane at Heathrow, duty free perfume and 18 year old whiskey bottles in clear plastic bags under my arm. They’re what I usually bring home. Over the next 12 hours I flipped through magazines and tried to get through some books that had been in my shelf, unread for several months and in the case of one, several years. My concentration lapsed and sentences were read and re-read but nothing penetrated. The in-flight movies were light, attempted blockbusters. I channel surfed between them and managed to watch three of them in sections over the course of the flight.
It was daylight the whole way, traveling further and further west towards the California sun. As the hours passed I stood up and wandered through the plane, stretching my legs and back nestled against a wall in the plane galley. Exhaustion settled in as the time flew by and although there were plenty of strangers I could have chatted to on the fully-booked flight, I kept to myself.
As we circled LAX, I looked out the window at the Los Angeles skyline. I was flying over home and I was struck by the strangeness of the place. There was no green. I passed through customs and immigration without incident, almost expecting the officers to question me like the foreigner I felt like I had become. Welcome home, one said to me as he handed back my passport. I glanced over my shoulder, then moved on.
I pushed my luggage trolley through the arrivals hall and scanned the crowds. Everywhere I was surrounded by people greeting each other. Friends and families hugged, others waited, lined up against the rail at the arrivals gate in anticipation. I leaned on my trolley and played with the buttons on my mobile. It’s called a cell phone here, I told myself. I said the words inside my head, parking lot, garbage, bathroom, sidewalk, downtown, trunk, hood, gas station…nothing.
I went out into the sun to wait and once free from the cold air-conditioned terminal, I was hit by the blastwave of the Santa Anna winds. I’m not used to this, I thought. Look on the bright side, there’s a tan, the pool, lemonade.
I saw the two figures shuffle through the crowds towards me. Dad, slightly hunched and lean from years of hard work and Mom, scurrying behind him in black heels and khakis. Sunglasses, large-framed planted on her head. They spotted me, and the reactions made the rest of the world around me disappear. She smiled, wide and welcoming, quickening her pace. He grined, slow and easy as if hearing some private joke inside his head.
Before I can say anything, I’m buried in hugs and Mom’s lipstick kisses on my cheeks. Everything is fine. Everything is normal. I’m home.
Writing Prompt: The Return Journey
Write about going back to a place that you haven’t visited in a long time. How does it feel to go back?