I woke up around seven that morning. I think I remember my flight was scheduled to leave around four, which meant I had to be at the airport around two o’clock. My dad picked me up at my aunt’s house, the place I called home for some five years after my divorce, and I kissed her goodbye. Her voice cracked as she hugged me, and I still feel a little guilt from leaving her; I never was super chatty with her, or spend any significant amount of time with her, this woman who was like a second mom to me. She seemed so frail… But I resisted.
It was the shortest breakfast ever. Then my dad, brother and sister in law came with me to the airport. And I hugged my mom, as her voice started cracking. I did not want to cry, not yet, but I have always been a mama’s boy. I felt a little lump as she blessed me, but I smiled and kissed her in the forehead.
I remember I had to take out one of my pants from the carry-on if I didn’t want to pay extra, which was just about as exciting my departure from Venezuela was, three years ago today. I was upending my entire life, and there was no drama, no complication, nothing when I left. My dad cried, of course; I take the easy-to-cry attitude from him. So did Andrea, my brother’s wife, my sweet cuñis. My brother may have, or may have not, all I remember was hugging him hard and begging him to look after my parents, that would try and do the same.
I spend the next two hours just wandering around. I had my laptop with me, and a notebook, but I found it hard to focus. Too much in my head, of course. I remember they played the final Planet Of The Apes movie on the plane and it didn’t even play the whole way through. I landed on Miami around eight pm. (Sorry if the hours don’t match, I’m struggling to remember. I now wish I had taken notes or, you know, take the journaling thing more seriously.) I was tired and a little disoriented, and now they have this new system to verify you’re entering legally. I had an buzzer, so I had to wait, but I got cleared no problem. So off I went.
My cousin and her two kids were waiting for me at the gate. She’s my aunt’s daughter and I haven’t seen them in well over ten years. The son is a big hulking nineteen-year-old, but still with a quiet, sweet disposition, I must say. The daughter is even sweeter, and I had already spoken to her about origami over Skype. They take me to a Denny’s for dinner, and all the while I’m just… looking around. I’m not really there. Part of me is still in disbelief I actually took this step. Part of me wants to just… begin.
That would happen two hours later when my connecting flight lands in Orlando. About half an hour goes by, and then… I see her. Y. shows up among the crowd looking for me. Even that wasn’t dramatic; no running in slow motion, no tears of joy. A long embrace and smiles and all the kisses we couldn’t give to each other for almost two years. We go off to the Uber that’s waiting for us, with D. sleeping in the back. I greet everyone who’s still awake… and NOW my story truly begins.
I’m happy to say that, despite the ridiculous year we’ve had so far, it’s been a pretty good three years. It’s been nothing but growth, realizing that I truly have been stunting my own potential. My first job was very much sobering, in a “We’re not in Kansas anymore” kind of way. I started out with only 200 dollars that I have no idea how they lasted so much. I found a job waiting tables that started out one way and ended… well, let’s just say another. As of now I’m looking at my second year as a server, and I realize it’s something that is slowly turning into not what I want to do (but will do for now).
A pandemic. The tensest election in modern history. Parenthood. Racism. I’ve been through all that, and I know I’ll be through much more. We have plans and needs, and we need more plans. But above all, I’m grateful. Grateful for the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet while I’m here, for all the good I’ve been able to find. And I’m certainly grateful that Y. and D. have allowed to be both more myself than I have ever been, and let me grow as a human being and as a man.
Let’s talk again when three becomes four, shall we?