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Sunday, August 7, 2022

Returns

returns
Listen to Constanza Mazzotti's voice note

By Pablo Lock. Peninsula 360 Press [P360P].

I'm going to town

Today is my day?

Los Panchos used to sing.

Even though I was already seated in waiting room number A18 at the airport more than half an hour ahead of time, having already gone through the stress of packing my bags, checked my passport a thousand times and checked in at the airline counter, I still had that feeling of apathy.

And although I tried to force some emotion, I could not feel the slightest enthusiasm. I felt a great disappointment to feel so listless and it was no small thing to return to my country after almost 20 years.

I had spent so much of my life longing for this moment, daydreaming of these moments of supreme commotion, of unbridled delirium, and today, although I tried hard, I could not get the slightest enthusiasm.

It is true that when I first emigrated the idea of my return was not a priority, not even a moderately present thought, just a distant longing.

I would see friends, co-workers or relatives returning to their countries on vacation and try to evade that shameful feeling of envy and, on many occasions when I had said goodbye to someone at the airport, I felt that sensation of being confined in a prison without bars.

Years planning mentally how my trip was going to be, from the moment I bought the tickets, the gifts I was going to bring, the clothes I was going to leave the plane with, whether or not I was going to let people know I was coming back. Always thinking about coming back made me happy and although I was aware that it was a fictitious happiness, it was very useful to evade my daily stress.

Even though I had already achieved relative economic stability, the many years of effort left me with a permanent fear of insecurity.  

My story was not unlike so many others of immigrants who arrive with more doubts than convictions and eventually discover that the "American dream" turns out to be a vulgar utopia. The meaning we give to the word success may well have been engineered by some slick house salesman.

They were already starting to call to board the plane and I, without feeling even the slightest emotion so far. Maybe I will feel something when the plane takes off, maybe when the plane lands, or when they announce that we have arrived at our destination. Maybe I will feel something beyond the customs line, when I pick up my bags. Possibly when I get the unmistakable scent of my city. Maybe when I see the raised arms of those on the other side of the terminal, effusively greeting the arrivals. 

But he remained inert and, although he maintained the hope of feeling something, it was more and more distant. 

The hugs with relatives, the cloudy sky, the filthy streets, the delirious smog and the precariousness of the houses did not help to cause me the long-awaited shock that I had idealized for years.

I passed through so many streets that I no longer recognized, through memorable places that now seemed strange to me, and I came to so many insipid affections that made me lose once and for all the illusion of finding the longed-for sensation that I had been macerating for so long.

Back in the San Francisco Bay Area after a month off, I returned exhausted from my vacation, beaten down by so many memories. I take a cab from the airport and, suddenly, I start to breathe better, my daze fades and I glimpse my home in the distance. Bewildered, I begin to feel again, just now, the longed-for, authentic, genuine excitement.

-Dad? Is that you?

Redwood City, May 2022.

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