by Myles Abroad
Sometimes appreciation only comes with loss.
The last call to board the fight to London Heathrow sounded. Glancing through the departure gate's plate-glass windows, dawn light revealed rows of narrow-bodied jets nosing the terminal as though pigs at a feeding trough. The plane next door began its slow push from the hub while the ground crew swarmed the one meant for my exodus. As the queue thinned, a fellow passenger clung to his mother in gasping sorrow and I shrank from my agony.
The small talk with my parents died and the tears Mom dammed in bloodshot eyes, slipped down her cheeks. My vision blurred as she choked a sob and hugged me, holding me in a vice-like grip. In silence, she let go, and Dad intervened with a trembling handshake as though resisting the need to embrace. Mom mouthed their love before they turned away to make their lonesome journey home.
Like a child abandoned to his first day of school, I fought that urge to run after them. A frail couple, dawdling as Dad supported my mother's crumpled figure. Swiping at tears, I swallowed a shuddering gulp of air to suppress my grief and joined the boarding line, a part of my spirit shearing forever.
Misery washed through me in waves as Dublin's tiny houses, in neat, symmetrical lines, gave way to rolling green fields. How many were waking to a new dawn, a day filled with mundane routines in the comfort of their community? The plane banked east, and I lost sight of Ireland for the last time. My heartache erupted in a hiccupped whimper. The lady occupying the seat beside me shifted, and I fixed my stare on the shimmering Irish Sea, embarrassed by my blubbering.
I always dreamed of an adventurous life, unbound by borders, free to live where I chose, unfettered by sentimentality. That's who I thought I was. In the last few weeks, reality slammed home. I'd taken for granted how much I cherished the town I grew up in, it's people, my friends, my parents. That desire to belong meant more than I ever grasped.
A nudge from my neighbour, and I realised the stewardess offered me tea of coffee. I mumbled my no-thanks and returned to my pale reflection in the window. My enlistment in the air force locked me into four years of service, but I swore I'd return, never to leave again. Four years, 1,461 days.