Saying goodbye to my parents never got easier.
We always made it into an event – driving into Toronto always meant a scrumptious Korean lunch out, a brief perusal of the fruit stands in Chinatown for any mangos on sale.
“You have the granola right?” Mom asks, concerned and I nod, even though she was the one who had meticulously packed the containers stuffed with her homemade granola into my suitcase. With a quick squeeze, Dad tells me he’ll see me Thanksgiving.
And then the moment comes like a Bandaid roughly pulled off a wound not yet scabbed, but the bus driver is waiting on me and so I board the airport shuttle, biting my lip but not looking back.
I think about this again as the hard metal of the seat presses the lumpiness of my oversized backpack against me.
It had only been two hours since I said goodbye to my parents at the Toronto airport. We had hurriedly disembarked our flight from Reykjavik with one hour for me to book it to the Megabus terminal to catch my six-hour bus to Montreal.
“The UPExpress is up the escalators to your right – ” Mom didn’t even finish speaking before I started jogging towards the escalators, my over-stuffed lumpy backpack jouncing wildly.
An hour of begging the UPExpress to please go faster later, I was at the bus terminal, fifteen minutes after my bus had pulled away without me.
At midnight, the terminal was eerily dark, the only lights being the corner shop selling stale croissants wrapped in cling wrap.
I found a row of three unoccupied seats beside the shop and collapsed into the small cavity of space the seat offered my tired body.
The seat is unaccommodating, and my body feels angular in all the wrong places.
Across from me sits a dark-skinned mother with her two girls. The younger one is curled up on the seat, her head resting on the mother’s lap. The mom tears off a piece of soft naan, offers it to the older one.
My cheeks suddenly feel hot and I quickly wipe the wet away with my sleeve before the mom glances over.
When did I stop being the little girl curled up peacefully on her mother’s lap, and start becoming this 25-year-old adult who’s supposed to know what to do with herself in a desolate Megabus terminal in the dead of night.
The truth was – I felt more like the 5-year-old Vivienne stuck in the grocery aisle between the steak spices and raw meat, surrounded by a sea of unknown bodies and strange voices.
The tears start falling hard and fast and I don’t even bother to wipe them away. The salty water clouds my vision and hangs heavy on my eyelashes before dripping steady and silent.
I am mourning my loss of childhood. My inability to simply curl up and sleep without worrying about when the next Megabus leaves.
I am mad that I can’t just be, without having to figure things out.
I am mourning my separation from the warm cocoon of home, where I wake up to prepared breakfasts, laundry folded into hot, pressed squares in my wire drawers.
Mad that no matter how hard I wish or pray, nothing I could possibly do could stop time and this process of growing up.
That no matter what, I will get older each year, and with each year, I will have people inquire about where I am in the search of a significant other.
I will be expected to manage my budget and to start separate saving accounts so I can invest, give, save and tithe.
I will need to know how to answer letters from the Canada Revenue Agency about tax forms with long names, and how to differentiate between real and fraudulent calls from the CRA.
I will have to make sure that eggplants I bought on sale don’t go mouldy in the fridge and that rent is paid on time each first of the month.
But I don’t want to grow up.
There’s this one video clip of me at age five.
My front bangs are dark and glossy and I’m in my orange dinosaur PJs ready for bed.
I kneel, my illustrated storybook Bible in front of me, and I pray. My eyes are shut tightly in earnestness, but it’s a simple prayer:
Lord Jesus, be near me, I pray in my high-pitched voice.
I open my eyes just long enough to flip the page, then squeeze them tight again, my hands clasped and propped up against the Bible.
Lord Jesus – be near me.
There’s not much that’s getting through to me in my bleary mess of fear and lostness, except this scene from my childhood with my simple prayer.
And so I speak it now under my breath into this unfamiliar and strange dark bus terminal:
Lord Jesus be near me –
and repeat again – Lord Jesus, be near me.
The words wash over me; they soothe my soul. And I grasp onto them like a lifeline.
In the darkness, I reach out for the nearness of my God.
For those of you curious as to how this story ended up turning out:
I tried to sleep on the hard bus terminal chairs like the little Indian girl, but a security guard told me I couldn’t sleep there (it was a sad day, indeed).
I was put on the waiting list for the 1:30a.m. bus and despite having 3 other people on the waiting list ahead of me, I managed to squeeze on (praise God!), and arrived in Montreal around 7:30a.m. (after which I went straight to a full-day work training starting at 8a.m. at McGill)
The first month of being back was rough getting settled back into the normal rhythms of life.
I forgot to cook myself lunch the first day I was back. I felt sad and lonely for unexplainable reasons. I didn’t want to have to deal with adult things, so I avoided them and ate ramen for a bit (I KNOW, a shocker).
But, it’s October and I finally feel more like myself. The rhythm of school starting again in September actually really helped me.
I’m starting to write again, which is always a good sign. I made an appointment with TD to get my saving accounts set up and cooked salmon this past weekend, which was absolutely delicious. Then, I went to my very first baby shower (what a milestone in adulting!) this past Saturday.
I don’t know if I’ll ever feel fully “grown-up”, or feel like I’ve got this adult thing down.