My time in Jeddah emptied itself before I knew it.
In a way, it was over a long time ago, ever since I left it two years back. But I held on to my hometown unceasingly, revisiting it once every year, always reminiscing on the memories.
But as I tugged the suitcase over the pristine epoxy floor, plane names flashing on Flight Information display systems installed all around the brightly-lit airport like accusations of my self-exile, it really started to sink in. My chest tightened at the smell of burnt jet fuel, the sounds of chattering families, and clattering trolleys echoing in my ears. So there I was, guilt choking me as I thought of having to say goodbye all over again.
A hand landed tenderly on my shoulder. I swung around to meet the sad smile on her illuminated face.
“I guess this is it,” She lowered her eyes. “See you again next year.”
I sucked my cheeks in, eyes burning like they were hit by eucalyptus oil.
A thousand images flit through my mind; chasing each other through playrooms and corridors, playing dollhouses like we were drunkards, fighting and scraping each other’s arms out of anger with tears in our eyes and making up again with jokes and games nobody else knew.
We played like the kids we were but we also fought like lovers, consoled each other like soulmates, teased each other like siblings, and fought for each other like heroes.
We were everything.
I saw the water swelling at the edge of her eyelids as she looked ahead lost in thought, clearly experiencing similar flashbacks.
I remembered that the time I left the year before, she had cried her soul out while I had patted her back with a beam, sorrowful but confident that I’d return.
But right then, when she was holding up better than me, I couldn’t feel the same confidence, couldn’t feel anything but agony-filled emptiness.
So I let myself break.
The next thing I saw was her shaking smile attempting to cheer me up, what I felt was her dad’s chest against my forehead. Voices around me told me I’d come back, that I’d see them again, but the scent of the duty-free store perfumes was a reminder that I was still leaving at that very moment. All I wanted to hear were my wails and feel was my squeezing heartache.
Perhaps I was more emotional than usual that day. Perhaps I was more weighed down for betraying my homeland again. Perhaps I loved them more than before because I knew what life was without them. Perhaps it was everything overwhelming my emotions and my senses.
But looking back now, I like to think that somehow, deep down, I knew I would never go back after all.
Jeddah is a city in Saudi Arabia, for anyone wondering.
This is a real life event from my life.