I rounded out 2008 by spending the last two weeks in Greece.
There, my family kept me busy. Grandparents, cousins, nightly visitors hustled in and out of the house. “How is New York?” they asked between bites of fresh baklava and walnut honey cakes.
“What do you do again?” I told them. They watched me with pride, showred me with glory. “My, how you’ve changed,” they’d say next, and I already knew. I have never lifted the world on my shoulders, but right then, I had.
It’s strange, leaving a place to go to another. Feeling the same cold of winter, peering at the same blue sky, yet sensing the differences. Like traveling through the universes, feeling as if you’re floating through time.
I had a night where I feared death. I held my little sister tight in my arms as we lay in bed and kissed her cheek. I felt deep love. Felt that I’m away too long and she’s growing up and she needs me and I’m missing it. I miss her. I thought as I took in the soft baby smell still clinging to her cheeks, “One day death will sweep us apart forever.” This is the trauma of mortality, the preciousness of sisterhood.
My mother and I talked. She said a lot I didn’t know before. She cried. Cried and I wanted to scoop her pain in handfuls, throw it to the wind. But instead, I held her hand. Understanding brings love. I’ve never loved her as much as I do now.
The goodbyes were hard. Questions, regrets, nostalgic thoughts and “what if”s creeped out of my head hours later, in the dim-lit, half-sleeping plane. It was somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, closer to New York, where I, too, finally fell asleep.
As soon as I stepped foot on land, it hit me: the smell, my neighborhood, my independence. My own soft music of my dreams.
After two weeks of home-baked pies filled with creamy Greek cheeses, rambunctious relatives, a slither of a moon lighting up the whole city by the sea, and the warmth of the cozy fireplace, I wasn’t sure how coming back to a small, cramped New York City apartment would feel.
My Taiwanese roommate looked over his shoulder and waved an animated hello as I opened the door. He was standing by the kitchen sink, making himself a grilled cheese. It was a few seconds later, when the mild smell of his yellow cheese reached my nose, that I knew I was home.