By Giovanna Veiga
“This is it,” my mom says in English, her accent thickening as it twists and morphs each syllable she utters. I don’t even notice it. I try not to look at her.
The airport around us is buzzing with movement—the plastic wheels of rolling bags clacking against the multicolored tile floor; the foreign chatter of different, incomprehensible languages filling the air; the whirring and beeping of machinery grinding in the background. People walk around us, pointing at signs and asking each other questions, the heels of their shoes quickly clicking past, the line in security only getting longer as more of them arrive. Yet somehow, I feel removed from my surroundings, all of this commotion fading into the distance.
“Are you excited? You’re going to have so much fun,” my dad says in Portuguese. I’m immediately overwhelmed by the materializing fear of studying abroad that’s been clouding my thoughts, accompanied with nausea bubbling in my stomach and knotting in my chest. “Make sure you have your ID and boarding pass ready.”
I force myself to nod. If my parents notice the unshed tears accumulating in the rims around my eyes, they don’t mention it. I can feel my muscles tensing up, my fight-or-flight response kicking in as I size up the exit over their shoulders. The glass doors slide open to let in a gust of cold air followed by more patrons, their expressions charged with excitement, and I look away.
“Do you have anything in your carry on? Any liquids or anything?” My dad begins to worry, his airport instincts starting up as he searches through my backpack for any illegal items that won’t make it past security. I absentmindedly nod along to his questions, the line at security entrancing me as I stare at it, wondering how long I can prolong this interaction before I have to step past those plastic poles with the blue retractable belts that divide the line.
“This is going to be the best time of your life, querida. I promise.” My mom jumps in, and I don’t wonder why she’s speaking English to me. Her hands squeezing tight around me break my staring match with the ropes, and I finally look her in the eyes.
Her brow crinkles with worry as she stares back at me. “If you need anything, we’ll be right here for you.” She promises, and, for some reason, a heavy, painful ball presses my throat. I swallow it down as best as I can. She kisses my forehead and offers me a sad smile before pulling away.
I turn to my dad, and his expression is absent of any sadness, oblivious as always. His arms are strong and powerful as they wrap around me, and I know that he would’ve been able to pick me up if he wasn’t so short. His stubble scratches my cheek as he pulls back to kiss me as well.
“Se comporta,” he reminds me in Portuguese, “behave.” And then he finally lets go.
For a moment I hesitate between them, glancing back and forth, but the goodbye is over. There’s nothing left to be said.
“Bye.” My voice cracks. I turn around and manage to put one foot in front of the other. The air changes as I walk past the rope marking the edge of the security line, and it’s thicker and harder to breathe somehow. But I don’t look back.
Giovanna is a Syracuse student double majoring in architecture and art history. Although her stories are just nuggets from her personal life, she hopes they’re relatable and enjoyable to others.