My family has moved from Chicago to Massachusetts! So after my graduation in Norwich, they flew back to Boston. But I wanted to swing by Chicago to see some friends and say goodbye to the city before flying to my new home.
I stay at my friend Tofu’s apartment and we have a blast. We go vintage shopping in Lakeview. We reunite with old friends in the suburb where we grew up. We splash through the Crown Fountain. We go crazy at Target and buy Capri Sun, cranberry juice, Pirate’s Booty, Trail Mix, and ice cream.
But when it’s time to fly back to Boston, my flight gets cancelled. I get on standby for two late-night flights but don’t get on either. Now I’m on a flight for tomorrow. Around midnight, I settle into an airport phone booth and try to call my dad, dialing in my credit card number.
“Make a collect call,” Dad says.
“Okay.” Vat tha heck is collect call?
At this point, I want to collapse. I don’t have an American phone to make calls on and I don’t have a laptop to access internet. It’s too late to contact anyone in Chicago, except maybe Tofu.
My beloved father, staying up just for me, checks for vacancies at nearby hotels.
“They’re all booked,” he says. “I’ll try calling Tofu for you.”
By the time I’m outside, my phone buzzes. Thank God I can still receive texts. Dad: Tofu replied. Get a taxi to hers.
I turn and see the yellow and black taxis rolling down the street. They look like hollowed-out pop cans. I’ve used taxis in Norwich but never in Chicago. I take one step and stop. I start to cry but there’s also a bubbling in my chest. It rises to my face and catches in my throat. Breathe, oh my god, breathe. I cover my face and inhale. Air skips up my body like a hiccup. I’m letting this happen to me but, at the same time, I can’t control it. My breath swipes against my chest like a match.
I’m alone. My uni friends are in England. My boyfriend is in England. My church family is in England. I’m here and my family’s not. I’m alone I’m alone I’m alone. I wanna go back to England. I wanna feel safe again.
Words climb up my throat. My voice rasps. I’m holding myself back from something. If I give in, it’ll hit me. I’ll stop breathing. I’ll choke, I know it.
I go to a wall and fixate on a cigarette bum. A guy shuffles past me. He’s from San Diego and he’s looking to get an Uber.
“Can we…car pool…” I say, still gasping.
He’s up for it but when I offer to pay my share, he takes in my state and says, “You know what? It’s on me.”
I feel better now. I get to the apartment and my beloved Tofu and our other friend are waiting outside for me. I’m treated to wine and Pirate’s Booty. We stay up talking and showing off our dance moves. These guys, the San Diego guy, and my dad = godsends.
I think back to my first night in Cardiff (read about it here). I remember feeling homesick. I was excited for a new adventure but, at the same time, I wanted to go right back to Norwich. But then Cardiff became an experience like none other. I got my laptop and passport stolen (detailed here) but I also got to participate in a poetry workshop with young people who struggled with mental health issues. I became good friends with my housemates and I got to know my colleagues at a more personal level, just when I thought I would be lonely. Cardiff is a friend who I went through so much with.
England was no different. When I first arrived, I felt uneasy but I could never have predicted the adventure I was about to have. I swam in the North Sea in a bikini. I did confessions to a Roman Catholic priest. I got proposed to at a Halloween party. I tried peanuts from the Congo at a Chinese church. I called my friend a “delectable piece of ass” on camera. I learned to dance to a Bollywood song. I graduated on the hottest day of the year.
And of course, Savvy, you and I became close friends.
There are so many good and not-so-good memories but it was an adventure nonetheless. Maybe Chicago, Boston, or wherever I end up next could be just the same. After what happened with the taxi situation, I am scared and I want to crawl back into my Norwich shell. But I also want an adventure and, well, I guess it’s not an adventure unless you’re a little bit scared.
Dear God, please comfort and reassure me. Please redesign my pattern of thinking. Help me to see every trial and tribulation as an opportunity to put my trust in You and not rely on my own strength.