Time Travel (hic sunt dracones)

A long time ago, on an old and very beautiful map, whenever the cartographers were at a loss and did not know the way or what was there, they wrote, here be dragons. Hic sunt dracones.

Truth be told, I’m not so sure about traveling, the same way I’m not so sure about love, and also vegetables. I get that it’s all necessary, I’m just not so convinced.

Why are there flights at dawn, or even before 10 AM? Can we make a rule about this? It’s 4 AM, and my brain is refusing to cooperate as I stumble into the kitchen and attempt bribing it via coffee. When I was little, I used to listen to Eagle Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight and daydream about being a wanderer, free as the wind, loving people but always leaving them. If I could go back now, I’d turn the song off and tell tiny me to stop, stop, you’re signing the pages of your life. We speak our baby wishes out loud and make them grown-up habits.

Buy gum to chew for takeoff and landing or you’ll feel sick, she reminds me. I roll my eyes but grin. She’s been telling me that since I turned five. Be safe, she tells me, be safe but explore and have no fear, and her shoulders are still strong when I hug her, but every time I leave I feel her age in my own bones, and it is a knife. I make promises about things over which I have no control. I’ll be fine, don’t worry. It’s going to be great. I’ll be back.

I love you.

And then I set off, which is right, squaring my shoulders, looking ahead. I risk a glance back, flinching just a little. It’s the second look that bites you. What will it feel like when I am no longer coming back? My heart fights to beat both forwards and backwards, and scissors painfully. Hearts like to stay in the right now, but they never quite seem to manage it.

The way to the airport, especially if it is still night, always has its own story. Wakening skies, and tiny memories. Just the beginning. Roman pines outlined by an ascetic moon, waving to each other in a stretching motion like a slow lullaby. The odd car racing in the other direction, glaring its headlights in the hush and dark of an October day not yet dawned. The morning light, in the corner, blushing furiously upwards to reach the clouds. Just the one stubborn star left, high up, stage left. The square Colosseum with its windows lit up, eyes in the dark. That stomach feeling of melancholy and purling excitement. By the time I reach Departures, daylight already rules.

Like I said, I get that this whole traveling thing is necessary, and in some way, deep in my brain where I cannot find the root of it, I’ve chased this life. I’m just not so convinced.

But then, here is the beauty of it, I think: we never have to fear that which we do not know. There are no dragons, just endless opportunity to learn, grow, and embrace. And if there are dragons, then I hope they are friendly.

Okay. I’m ready, let’s go.

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Originally published at younginrome.com on October 26, 2015.