by Bikem Pastine (age 17, Aston Quay, Dublin 2)
The bus to the airport winds around the city far more than it has to. It makes me dizzy when I let my thoughts wander too long, but I can’t help it. This is my treasured day; it’s a jewel I’ve held up to the light over and over to see what colours it would reflect on the wall. I’ve replayed the scenario of today and refined it to near reality. The €5 flowers I had bought on Grafton Street are already wilting but it is fine because today I’m on this bus.
I started preparing for your arrival even before the social worker told me you’d be coming. I started the moment we separated from each other. I didn’t prepare by making a bed or laying out fresh towels on the bedside table. It was a subtle preparation. When I stood with bad posture I sat up straight because I knew you wouldn’t like it if I had a crooked back when we saw each other again. I studied hard to learn English because I knew you’d be proud if I could order for you in a cafe. I did my nails once a week because I knew you would think it was important that my hands looked taken care of.
I look down at my nails now and they seem strange against the yellow pole of the bus. The pinky nail isn’t quite straight but I doubt you’ll notice or even mind if you did. It makes me sad anyway because I imagined, in this moment, my nails would be perfectly French manicured but of course French manicures are hard to do on your own right hand.
I think of all the things that have been hard since we separated. It’s been hard coming here and it’s been hard being here. I know it’s going to be all right though because you will be by my side soon. Everything I have been strong for will be worth it. You will brush my hair and hand me my school lunch as I step out the front door. I’m far from a kid anymore. Of course, I can make my own school lunch but it’s different when you give it to me. Even buttered bread is a five-star meal when it comes from your hands.
It’s like the rice recipe I asked you for. I thought if only I had the recipe I could make it like you do. I spent hours searching for the right rice because the rice here doesn’t have the right shape. Finally, when I found it, I cooked it just as you said. It didn’t smell or taste right so I changed the amount of butter and then the amount of water. The kitchen was decked with different variations of the wrong rice. That was the day I first imagined this bus ride. I’ve imagined it so much it has become a memory.
I imagine I’ll know you’re you even before I see your face because you’ll be wearing that red headscarf that I embroidered for you as mother’s day gift years ago. I’ll run up and knock the bag right out of your hand. My cheeks will hurt from smiling. I’ll pick up your bag from the floor and we’ll walk hand in hand and talk about your journey and how lucky we are that you can be here. And then we’ll talk about everything that’s happened since we separated and then about things that nobody else can understand. The girls at the youth club and I talk about the future and about the present but it’s with you I have my roots.
The bus is driving up to Terminal 2. My heart is beating fast and I wonder what it will feel like to hug you again. Have I forgotten? Is it even possible for it to feel the same? Too many months have passed unshared. I think it won’t matter if our hug isn’t the same as it used to be or even the same as I pictured. It will be real. It won’t be in my head anymore. The bus is stopping. My goodness, I’ve missed you.
If you live in a different country than your parents do, you have the right to be together in the same place