“Obladi, oblada, life goes ooooonnnnnn!” croons my taxi man’s radio, a totally appropriate theme song for the morning as I prepare to leave my vagabonding ways and return to the good ol’ US of A. I book my 4 AM ride via the hostel and actually manage to sleep some, paranoia that what happens with every other taxi ride down here–AKA, total no shows–obliterated by fatigue. Forty-five minute later, I check in to my American flight, Miami-bound, and by 6:05 AM, the aircraft wheels leave Peruvian soil, making this return home oh-so-real.
The butterflies in my belly toss and turn, some fluttering with the excitement of seeing my family in the matter of a few short hours, countdown almost unbearable, and others the budding blossoms of return-to-the-real-world anxieties, burgeoning thoughts of “what now?” suddenly all too relevant, pressing even.
Since July 2 of last year, I have the luxury of pushing past these worries, dedicated to the adventure at hand, such fears impractical when faced with the more pertinent problem of “where next?” but today, I barrel towards them on a jet plane, head first. The resurgence of a familiar stress settles into my nerves, electrifying me with frenetic energy, and again, I regret my end-of-travel sentiments.
For nine months, it barely matters what day of the week we are and how it falls–beginning, middle, or end–but with every country we leapfrog in this aircraft, I wedge further down between a rock and a hard place, fear that I am, end the end, entirely too caught up in the vortex of a work-crazed, production-obsessed, commercial culture to emerge unscathed.
For nine months, I finger the event horizon, pulling myself away from a mentality and lifestyle that feels like a lie, faithful executors to what we are supposed to do if one is college educated and applies oneself, the vastness between heart’s desire and ego’s dance a gulf of torrents that swallows souls whole and spits out an army of drones destined to fall into someone else’s ruts and grooves, too drained to heed the cries of discomfort and grow out of them into higher versions of ourselves.
For nine months, I resist, but only because I remove myself from the equation. Today, though, the black hole, the source of it lays before me, an unavoidable destination. And, it comes dressed in red, white and blue, a little country we bundle up as the best export ever, the United States of America.
Returning here is a return to the obstacle course, a place where, frankly, I find I leave a whole bundle of disillusions and distresses, and truth be told, I have no desire to reinvite those dastardly characters back into my life. Geographically, this place is an emotional minefield for me, magnetic pull into the bottomless pit almost irresistible, and to keep from falling into the same traps of personal dramas, rat races and the hamster wheel of life lessons, I’ll have to walk the edge like a nimble gymnast, grounded and impervious to the devil’s promise of quicker, faster, better, more, now, hurry, now!
For six hours, we glide straight north, and through the miracle of time change, we nonetheless fast-forward two hours, landing in Miami mid-afternoon. Lucky for me, Miami provides the perfect port-of-entry, a smoother transition to reverse culture shock, for it is almost more South American than North American, an ordered take on Latin flair and fire.
Pack and bag in cart, I wait my turn to pass through the final leg of customs, overwhelming relief to be granted re-entry, forever traumatized after years of being black-listed in immigration’s database for needing to fly in on an emergency passport, real deal stolen in Portugal back in 2003. The official looks at my blue declarations card, and breaking his pattern of stamp and signal forward, he pauses and looks me in the face–
“You been to all these countries?”
Yup, I nod.
“And, how long you been gone?” he asks, eyebrow raised.
I tell him.
“Miss, follow the yellow dots, please,” he declares, almost incredulously, hand gesturing to a big room off to the right.
Welcome to the United States of America.