Elizabeth Gomez: The Last Hours

The last hours of vacation are the hardest. While scrolling through my phone at the airport, watching my two daughters argue over the chocolate bar that I shoved at them has not been divided equally, I can’t help but fall into a dark hole of despair. I look up from my phone and fall into the meditative sounds of the airport – rolling luggage, clicking heels, the soft buzz of the moving walkway, a baby being consoled by his mother, newlywed’s whispers of excitement.

My eyes follow the shape of overweight businessmen discussing their new strategy for marketing, “Let’s take it off the chalkboard and give it to marketing to see if it’s got legs, Jim.” Then, the flight crew whizzes by me and my hand goes limp, almost dropping my phone, as the envy in my heart watches them get smaller and smaller as they head off to their newest adventure.

The family in front of me spreads out on the floor eating McDonald’s, chewing on the grey meat sandwiches with wilted lettuce stuck to their cheeks as if they were a row of masticating cows. I’m disgusted. The toddler laughs with her mouth open, chunks of chewed French fries exposed with each guffaw, as her dad teases her with each one. I am warmed.

My husband sits three chairs away from me, the luggage piled in between us as the girls run off to the Duty Free. Visions of what my life would be here, in whatever place we are leaving, become bright in my head. Bartender? Shop girl? Maybe a vixen who searches out lonely tourist to show them a good time in exchange for extravagant dinners and gifts.

Maybe I can convince the whole family to stay with me. I wouldn’t have to do it alone. We’d get a small apartment. The girls could ride bicycles with flower baskets to University and sit in cafes on rainy days with friends pouring over magazines. We’d all lose weight from walking everywhere and playing on the beaches. My husband would garden and head to the market daily. I would start smoking cigarettes and sunbathing in our yard.

I look away from my vision and at the dull gloss of the airport floor. Unsure of what they are usually made of, I feel as if they appear hard, but still give a little under my flip flopped feet. My toes spread open and close as I resist the urge to quietly excuse myself and vanish into the crowd of bustling travelers to start my life anew. My daughter’s almost adult body sinks down next to me. “Mom, she’s annoying me,” she says as I’m thinking the exact same thing about her.

She places her head on my shoulder. Her hair smells like sunblock and sweat, matted and frizzy from the humidity. Airports in other countries always have just enough air conditioning to not drive you mad, but still maintain an atmosphere that reminds you that you are not in America. Her head moves lower onto my shoulder. Faint static beats emit from her headphones.

I hate every second of this: the hours before I have to get on the plane. I try to keep my mind busy by scrolling through the internet and pushing away my feelings to stay. I Went On Vacation and You’ll Never Guess Why I Didn’t Go Home flashes across my screen and I squeeze my phone so hard, I think it’ll break. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you loops in my head.

I’ll be honest. I want to rip out the eyes of authors who pen articles such as I Went on My Dream Vacation and Never Came Back. Well, la-di-fucking-da, you piece of shit, good for you. While I appreciate the reminder that we should all keep chasing our dreams, I want to remind you that for some of us, our dreams are dead.

My body floods with jealousy. I search deep into my heart to remind myself that my husband is irreplaceable and that one day my kids will actually love me back. I wonder who are these magical unicorns who can leave all of their home life behind without looking back? Most are single and young or rich and lucky. Tears start to come to my eyes as I wonder if I’m losing my opportunity for real happiness in paradise.

“Do you remember how Mom couldn’t get up the hill with that stick shift?” My eldest daughter spurts out with laughter.

“And all those people were watching! I was so scared we were going to roll back into the other cars! I thought she was going to kill us!” My other daughter commiserates. A laugh starts to roll around at the bottom of my belly and roar out, even though I’m slightly embarrassed. My husband from three chairs away looks away from his magazine, smirking and shaking his head.

Then suddenly, I’m back with them and excited to go home.

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