Revisiting Endings: #TBT

Today is the day!

I’m flying back to Cape Town today, and while it’s not for the 4–6 month that I’m used to. I suppose it’s only fair that I experience the horror of having to take the 26–32 hour flight twice in a week since I convinced so many others that “it’s not so bad”…

It’s also a Thursday! So for a #ThrowbackThursday, I figured I might as well reminisce about my departure flight last May. Here it goes:

We got all the student abroad kiddies checked in and through security successfully, and then off they went, back to Connecticut. We waved until the last student went through and then retreated back to the Southern Suburbs to pop some MCC/Champagne/Sparkling Wine and celebrate a successful program. Well done to us! Time to relax and enjoy, and for me to start packing up fro the big move home.

Three days till departure: We hosted a braai, gave away various personal items and drank far too much.

Two days till departure: We cleaned up after the braai, and continued to drink far too much. As we sat sipping MCC/Champagne/Sparking Wine staring at Table Mountain from my driveway, my eyes glanced to the mounting pile of luggage.

“They’ll let me take all of this, won’t they?” I asked.

“Sure, of course, it’ll be no problem… probably,” came the replies.

And so we sat staring Table Mountain enjoying the last gorgeous days before winter, and my last days before flying back to the US.

One day till departure: Closed bank accounts, purchased last minute keepsakes and stocked up on pinotage and dried mangoes… and continued to stare at my piles of luggage.

Day of departure: As we load up the car, it becomes apparent that I have far too much luggage based on the constraints of 1 piece of checked luggage, 1 piece of carry on and 1 personal item.

“They’ll let me take all of this, won’t they?” I asked.

“Sure… probably… maybe,” came the replies.

We checked in, and between the tearful goodbyes, the attendant points out that my luggage is too heavy, but be it the tears or general air of despair, she’s willing to led it pass without charging me extra fees.

One hurdle overcome. Great!

Through security I go, with two carry on bags and a backpack… and still no one has said no.

Lined up to board the plane. The man behind me, in a very offhand way, points out that I have far too much luggage.

I explain that I’m moving back to the US, and he says, “that’s nice, but you still have too much luggage.”

And then the waterworks start.

I mean serious streams of tears rolling down my face, ugly crying at the worst.

He’s in shock, confused and a little alarmed. But at this point we’re boarding the plane. I’m crying, becoming more and more embarrassed by the moment, I’m emotionally exhausted, and I really just have too much luggage.

I can’t carry it because I’m tired, and I can’t get it through the aisles because my vision is all blurred from waves of tears.

I’m such a wreck that another overwhelmed passenger comes to my rescue and places my luggage in the racks and patiently helps me shove my additional bags under and to the side of my seat (I really did have too much stuff).

I crawl into my window seat with a tear tracked, blotchy face and a weird combination of crying induced hiccups and exhaustion induced wheezing. The nice lady next me starts to pat my shoulder and say, “There, there, it’ll be alright.”

Once I’ve calmed myself to some degree, she asks, “what’s wrong?”

I explain that I’m leaving, and that I don’t want to.

“Oh shame,” she says. “Are you leaving someone special?”

And without really processing it, I nod my head ‘yes,’ thinking more along the lines of the dear friends I’ve made and the city that I’d grown to love.

“Oh shame,” she says. “I’m sure you can make it work, or did you break up?”

And then, without really processing it, I shake my head. “No, we broke up.”

And so in that moment, for the next 12 hours on my fully packed flight, I became the distraught American girl whose boyfriend broke up with her at the airport.

Anytime I got out of my seat, I received commiserating smiles from the attendants, supporting pats on the back from the dads and lingering hand-holding from the older ladies of the flight.

“Shame, did you hear her boyfriend broke up with her before the flight?” came the whispers as I passed.

I’d smile and look weepy, and then blush… this continued for 12 long hours.

Upon arrival, we disembarked, all headed in different directions and location, but with me and my luggage off to explore London. As we dispersed at luggage claim, I hear a familiar voice behind me.

“Hang in there, sweetheart. You can do better than him.”

I’ve done a lot of embarrassing things in my life. That’s part of why my blog was names “growing pains.” I’ve cried in public more times than I can count. I’ve tripped, spilled and misspoken. While on an interview, I even walked into the men’s bathroom when a member of the search committee was in there.

But even as I type this, I feel the red coming to my face and I cringe remembering that flight and those painful hours.

In preparation for today’s flight, I’ve spent an absurd amount of time thinking about and evaluating my luggage situation and strategy. I feel pretty confident in my choices at this point.

But let’s just hope that if a situation arises, I can pull off the break-up story just one more time… or at least, let’s hope that no one from that flight will be on this one.