I sit on a plane, passing over the cold, northern part of Russia, wondering what it will be like to be back home again. I wonder what it will be like to go back to the familiarness of a world that, in many ways, is so forgotten in my day to day life in Canada.
I wish I had Michelle with me. Somehow going on this trip to revisit Hyderabad once more before the door, to the house at least, is closed forever feels like it’s taking me back into my childhood. Being alone seems to make it all the more a pilgrimage into my past, without my wife, and without any part of my Canadian life with me. I do the trip the same way I’ve done it so many times. It’s hard, but it seems fitting somehow.
The fact that the trip came together so quickly only makes the journey seem more automatic and routine. I’ve missed the anticipation and build-up that normally comes with a trip like this. It isn’t strange or abnormal to find myself navigating through airports alone over Christmas break. It seems second nature. In so many ways it feels like all the times I flew home to visit family over my breaks in high school. Only this time I have a wife in Colorado that I’m away from, and a life in Canada as a teacher, with responsibilities and classes, and students who struggle to even begin to understand this — this part of me.
Sure, I talk about Pakistan sometimes. They ask questions about what it was like, and we make jokes about serious things like terrorists, or we talk about what the weather was like, or whether it felt dangerous, or whether I was scared; the usual. We laugh, and I move on. Life goes on. And so much of my life I live without giving any of it a thought. I wake up, scrape the ice off the windshield as the car heats up, and drive to school, teach, coach, laugh, talk, come home, relax with Michelle, work, sleep, repeat. There’s no room for this. There’s no room for all that’s in my head sometimes, even though I don’t realize it’s there until a time like this — the self-absorbed soul-searching and questions about my identity; the questions about where I fit in with all of this. And now that I’m married, about where a duo of mixed up internationals fit into the complicated world they live in.
So I put up a little Pakistani flag on my bulletin board, share some stories, make some jokes, and then go on fitting into to where I appear to fit so well. It’s not that I’m trying hard to fit in, or trying not to. It just happens. Pakistan lies dormant inside me, like a dream that I’ve had enough times for it to feel like reality. It’s just that in times like these, as my plane cuts through the cold Russian sky, nose pointed toward Beijing, that I wonder which life is more the reality, and which is a more the dream. Only maybe it doesn’t have to be one or the other.