Thursday, June 16, 2016

Leaving Is Harder Than It Looks

Preparing for India went alot more smoothly this time around.  There is no real being prepared, of course.  The last time I was there is proof of that.  I went prepared for rain and got typhoons and a deluge.  As I was getting my clothes together a week before my flight I realized that I've come to see my trips to India as an exercise in surrendering as much as anything else.  The fewer the expectations I have and the more flexible I'm willing to be, the better.

This time I was told it was hot and muggy and to come prepared to fight off mosquitoes.  So out came the cotton shirts, multipurpose kurtas, and pants bought during my first two trips, my cute water shoes (which I can't recommend enough: that are way more comfortable for long walks than they have any right to be, and mosquito repellent.  Aside from that, some choice toiletries, my books and notes from the training, and the just-in-case meds, everything else I could get in Chennai.  And if I can't get it, I don't need it.

If not truly prepared, I at least felt emotionally ready to face whatever new surprises would come my way.

I was struck then, when, a few days before my trip, I was asked by a friend if I was excited and the truth was I wasn't.  Not that I didn't want to go.  That was far from the case.  But I was sensing a deep sadness about leaving Kevin.  Our first conversation about me joining this program focused on how difficult it would be for him to have me gone for so long.  Of the two of us, he is the most sentimental and also the one most nurtured by the daily cadence of a relationship.  The kisses goodbye, the hugs when we greet each other after getting home from work, cooking together, talking about our day over dinner, and even sitting in the same room together quietly as we each do our own thing, don't simply have significance for Kevin: they sustain him.

I realized that, though I wanted to see Chennai, and spend time with my teacher, and learn with and from the other students, and though I knew it was not only what I wanted but what I in fact needed, that there is this part of me that hated the thought of leaving Kevin.  The days leading up to my departure, I found myself watching him more, almost studying him, and doing my best to enjoy every moment I had with him before leaving.

We had planned to finish all packing two days before I was to leave so that would give us my last full day in San Diego to spend time together and relax but as luck would have it some last minute tasks took a lot longer than expected and so we finished the trip related chores around 9:30 p.m., our typical bedtime.  The next day I would leave at noon so at least we had the morning together to focus just on each other.  We woke up without a rush, had brunch at Eclipse Chocolate, one of our favorite places to eat, and then went home to pick up the bags and head to the airport.

Breakfast at Eclipse Chocolate.

There check-in went thankfully quickly and we sat on a bench, my arm around him, and talked.

It was one of those moments that could've lasted hours and it still might not have felt like enough time.  I resisted looking at my watch and when I finally did it was close enough to departure time that I really had to get through security immediately.  The thought crossed my mind that I'd resisted looking at my watch precisely because I had not wanted that to be the case.

At the airport, just before going through security.

The new security line setup at San Diego International Airport has glass walls separating the ticketed passengers headed to the gates from the people dropping them off and I found myself constantly looking back to see Kevin watching me move through the line.  Depending on where I was in line, sometimes I'd see him and sometimes he'd be blocked by a column or a particularly tall passenger in the winding line behind me, in which case I would do the awkward leaning in one direction and then another to see if it would give me a better vantage point.  Sometimes it did.  Sometimes it didn't.  I annoyed a few people behind me while doing it but didn't really care.

When I got through security the first thing I did was look back only to see an empty space where he'd been standing.  It struck me that "empty" was precisely the best way to describe a place without him at that moment.  I called him as I scanned through the glass and caught his silhouette as he answered.

"I had to move to be able to see you" he said.

I felt silly with all this, of course.  I realized that it was both out of character and a bit melodramatic.  But I wasn't ready to have a month without him just yet and wanted every fix I could get.

"I don't know why it's so hard to leave you this time," I'd told him the night before lying in bed in the dark room in the few moments before I fell asleep.

I still don't have an answer for it.  But I don't particularly need one.  There's a certain comfort that this process of surrender can begin before I ever arrive in India.

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