ON LEAVING

(Liya Rechtman)– Its 5am and I wake in Cincinnati, DC, Kansas City, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Tel Aviv, Amherst, Amsterdam. I’m on a bus and I’ve been using my backpack as a pillow. My left ear is throbbing from being crushed against my laptop. I’m on a plane and I’ve been kicking the seat in front of me with my knees as I twisted in my seat. My neck feels stiff and I have pins and needles in one ankle. I’m in a car and I have been straining against the upper strap of my seat belt, bumping my head against the windowpane for hours. There are bits of sleep crust all along the rims of my eyes and my mouth is dry down through my throat. I’m in sweatpants with no bra and fuzzy socks.

This is my favorite way to live.

I have this memory of my mom shaking me in the very early morning and telling me that we have a flight to catch. I remember so distinctly the disorientation: how confused I felt while packing because I couldn’t recall just where we were going, other than that it was for her work. I remember not caring, just looking forward to the recycled air – the sanctity of flight.

Travel, for me, is a way to cleanse. Perhaps it’s because I went with my mom so often for work when I was young, I have the constant itch to go, almost anywhere, anytime. It’s not about the place, it’s not about seeing a new culture or strange people or eating different food. I love the airports, the bus terminals, pit stops with messy bathrooms and 7/11s. I love chugging water because there’s nothing else to do and watching low-quality two-year-old movies that I had sort of wanted to see while they were in theaters and never really gotten around to.

And I love doing it at night: climbing into a cab while the rest of New York is sleeping and watching the sunrise at take-off. I try not to sleep the night before. Instead, I stay up as late as possible, enjoying my last drops of wherever I am before I grab my bag and reach out for some TLC (by which I mean “Taxi Limousine Commission,” not “tender loving care”). I finally pass out as we start to roll across the tarmac, out of the City and into the sky. Moments later, I’m somewhere else entirely. I could turn my phone off, if I wanted to (although I rarely do). I can leave Amherst, New York, Israel, DC wherever I was most recently as I enter a new place, a new sense of self.

This liminal space is, in its own hazy way, sacred. It’s a moment of transition, growth and reflection. I am miles above the proceeding days/weeks/months and this new angle helps me solidify my thoughts. I have rituals, too. (Doesn’t everybody?) I must listen to Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” album and The National’s “Guest Room” twice. I carry a kit of airplane-acceptable everything and, roughly ten minutes before they turn the seatbelt sign back on, I change out of my now-filthy, crumb and sweat encrusted pajamas and into Real People clothes. A ritualized physical element of transformation is required.

I am writing this now not because I’ve been traveling so much recently. To be fair, I’ve moved around a bit this summer, but mostly on the ground. This morning I was in the position of having to say goodbye to my roommate, one of my closest friends at school, as she departs for a whole year of country hopping. Somehow, despite the itch, I’ve become the one at home, the friend to leave and come back to, instead of the one with one foot in the car.

I guess this is just to say that I get it. In order to love where I am, I know that I have to leave –and return – then leave again – and return again. Until I finally feel like I understand what it is I’m coming back to.

So enjoy! But don’t forget about us, here, we who are still strumbling around the Happy Valley. Because we’ll miss you.

Medɔ wo papaapa,
Jeg elsker dig,
te quiero,
내가 당신을 사랑

<3 ConstantLy Liya Rechtman

Photo courtesy of Justin Knoll ‘14