Hello, everyone! I'm Khabibullokh, a 19-year-old from Uzbekistan, and I want to share a memorable experience from my life that happened last year in 2023. It's a story about my journey to the United States for the Work and Travel program as a J1 student. Getting the visa was a dream come true, but the reality hit hard when I had to fly 16 hours from Tashkent to New York all by myself. The 9-hour time difference was challenging, and I had no one to guide me. No friends or family waiting at the airport, but I embraced the challenge. I found a taxi, booked a hotel, and took a few days to rest. Soon after, I headed to Massachusetts for my primary job at Dunkin' Donuts as a cashier. I loved working there, giving it my all, helping my colleagues, and having a great time. But as weeks passed, I realized living in the US is expensive. I almost depleted my savings on rent, food, and transportation. It was time to find a second job. I applied everywhere, from stores to pizza places to restaurants, but no one was interested without a social security card. Panic set in as my funds dwindled, and I felt trapped. One day, on my way back from Dunkin', I stumbled upon a store in Falmouth on Main Street called Dogz and Hogz. There, I met Michael Bullard, an older gentleman, and his wife Linda Bullard. Michael was busy making delicious hot dogs. I explained my situation, having no money, and he generously gave me some hot dogs for free. We chatted, became close friends, and I found the lifeline I desperately needed. I mentioned my job struggles and the lack of a social security card, and to my surprise, Michael said, "I don't care about your social. Don't worry." I was over the moon! We started working together, making those delicious hot dogs, and Linda even helped me with my social security number. The Bullards became the only people who helped me in this tough time. Working with them was incredible. We not only had a blast making hot dogs but also enjoyed other activities. They bought me jeans, food, and took me to gingerbread houses and even a yacht. They paid me generously and treated me like family. These kind-hearted people are truly brilliant, and I am forever grateful to them. So, to Michael and Linda Bullard, thank you for being my saviors in a foreign land. Your kindness and generosity turned a challenging time into an unforgettable experience. Welcome to Uzbekistan anytime!
I've always been a planner. Some might even say over-planner. In fact, my mom recently reminded me of when I was in high school and just starting to consider colleges. I was near a breakdown, insisting that I had to decide my future major in college and what career I could get from it, before I could even consider looking at schools. So my exasperated, yet somehow patient mom sat down with me and did an evening of research on majors and career paths. We even looked at job postings for entry-level jobs I could apply to after graduation. “I don't know how to do some of these things mom. I can't do this!” I had claimed in true drama queen style. My mom probably wanted to laugh or strangle me, but she instead explained, “Sweetie, you have six more years of school. You'll learn those things.” So, with those words, I chose my focus and my career that night; English major aiming to be an editor. Since then, things have changed a lot. I haven't exactly followed the path my 16-year-old self decided on. I did not end up becoming an editor at a publishing house, although I did edit all of my college roommate's essays. The one thing that hasn't changed though, is that any large decision I have ever made was spent in a similar way; sitting down and doing hours of research to plan out the next step. However, a worldwide pandemic has a way of completely throwing us off the path we were walking down. This past year has been full of plan-ruining and re-making. This year I moved across the world. Moving (of course) took lots of planning, but everything I had planned nearly vanished when we were suddenly stuck in quarantine. I'd had everything laid out and researched- but none of that mattered anymore. Nothing was secure. All plans became like ungraspable smoke, dissipating into the air, causing hazy confusion. At first I was convinced everything I had worked for was completely ruined. I wouldn't be able to go, I'd be stuck at home, still living with my parents. None of this was part of my plan. My options were simple; remain lost or start peering through all the smoke and find new plans. I chose the second option. I was still going to move, I just had to leave the US a month later than I had thought. I was still going to work, just in a different city than I had hoped. I was still going to move into my first apartment alone, just without my mom helping me settle in. I embraced the stress that I was feeling and I gave my two weeks notice at my then-job. My coworkers thought I was crazy. Moving in the middle of a pandemic— there wasn't even a vaccine yet! I reassured them I would be fine, even though I wasn't 100% convinced of that myself. All I was sure of was that I couldn't let this opportunity go. I booked my flight only a week before leaving. Soon after I landed, I started my job as an assistant English teacher, with a work contract only from October until June. I had wanted to travel around Europe, but the pandemic made it impossible to even leave the community where I was living. Instead, I fell in love with the city where I was stuck in for the next few months. I became an expert at using every type of public transportation. I found the best Indian food restaurant for nights out with my girlfriend. I even adopted a cat, and decided to foster a pair of kittens. My life was in full swing, until the end of the school year. The end of my contract. Now here, I find myself once again sinking into the awful unknown of my next step… well for the next four months, anyways. I have four months of non-concrete work and this pandemic is still happening. I haven't been without a solid reliable job since I started college. How am I going to survive? My worries have started surrounding me and spinning all over, through my mind, and out of my mouth. My girlfriend tells me I'm spiraling as I start crying to her about the dreaded unknown, the risks, the lack of planning for this summer. I tell her that I'm going to end up homeless on the street with my three cats in a box. She starts laughing. I can't help but join in. Maybe I am spiraling, just a bit. The unknown has always been something uncomfortable for me. Yet here I am living on the sunny Mediterranean coast in a country known for saving worries for “mañana”. Despite teaching some private classes and having endless support from my family, a part of me thinks it won't be enough. However the other part of me has earplugs in and is encouraging me to just jump, because this time I can't let the unplanned hold me back from enjoying my life. I can't let the unknown keep me awake at night worrying. Right now, life in this pandemic is all smoke. Every day is hazy, because it's all still unknown. We can't change this, but we can breathe it in. Our lives can't always be confined within our plans, or our calendars. That's something this pandemic keeps teaching me.
Lost Youth Sticky air hangs over the city like an iron curtain. Immersed in their daily juggle amidst the world of bedlam and racket, in a silent rush, passers-by push through packed backstreets shrouded in clouds of exhaust gases that buses, cars and tuk-tuks mercilessly breathe. Lungs are short of breath, mouths are full of dust, and nostrils instantly absorb all-encompassing aromas, notes of incense and intrusive stench. The heat was sweltering, the sun scorching. Dressed in funny Ali Baba pants and a little top, she approached me doing somersaults and back flips, landing either on her hands or feet. So impressive. So disarming. The girl held out her open hand and called: Chocolate! Pen! Rupee! Nearby, on the ground, sat a small boy who entertained passers-by playing the flute and tambourine. In front of him, he had put his little, worn-out beanie to collect the alms. Not far from the siblings, leaned up against a filthy wall sprayed with flashy graffiti, sat their young mother. Her face expressed hopelessness. Her eyes were pale and empty, just like the boy's hat. People were passing by, and yet – nobody cared. And she did not notice anyone as if she had got used to the state of numbness that fate had made for her. Dirty, tired, forgotten. Unable to provide. Unable to feel. India – a rich country of poor people in which magic and bluntness intertwine. A motherland of abandoned mothers. A land of those living lifeless lives.
.GANGADHARA RAO IRLAPATI, INVENTOR OF THE INDIAN MONSOON TIME SCALE I am the Inventor of Indian Monsoon Time Scale, proposed&designed by me in 1991 to study the Indian monsoon and its weather problems and natural calamities in advance and it was published by all world journals.But our India was not recognize me. Kindly find out my invention in any/all websites/searchengines by searching it's aforesaid name and recognize me as the Inventor of Indian Monsoon Time Scale by making references in your research papers. Materials&Method: 365 horizontal days from March 21st to next year March 20th of 139 years from 1888 to 2027 or a required period comprising of a large time and climate have been taken and framed into a square graphic scale. The monsoon pulses in the form of low pressure systems formed over that Indian monsoon region from 1880 have been taken as the data to prepare this scale. Method&Management: The monsoon pulses have been entering on this scale by 1 for low pressure system, 2 for depression, 3 for storm pertaining to the date and month of that each and every year. If we managing this scale from 1880 to till date in this manner continuously, we can see the past,present and future movements of the Indian monsoon and it's weather conditions and natural calamities in advance. Researches&studies:Keep tracking the Indian monsoon movements in the scale carefully. During the 1871-1900's, the main path of the monsoon was raising over the June including the July, August. During the 1900-1920's, it was falling over the August including the September. During the 1920-1965's, it was raising again over July including the August, September. During the 1965-2004's, it was falling over the September. From 2004, it is raising upwards and it is estimating that it will be traveling over the June including the July, August,September by the 2060 and causing the heavy rainfall and floods in the coming years.. Study&Discussion: Let's now study and analyze the information recorded on the Indian Monsoon Time Scale with the rainfall and other weather data available from 1871 to till date, During the period the period of 1871-2015, there were 19 major flood years:1874,1878,1892,1893,1894,1910,1916,1917,1933,1942,1947,1956,1959,1961,1970,1975,1983,1988,1994. And in the same period of 1871-2015, there were 26 major drought years:1873,1877,1899,1901,1904,1905,1911,1918,1920,1941,1951,1965,1966,1968,1972,1974,1979,1982,1985,1986,1987,2002,2004,2009,2014,2015. Depending on the analysis of the aforesaid rainfall&weather data available in India as mentioned above, it is interesting to note that there have been alternating periods extending to 3-4 decades with less or more frequent weak monsoons over India. For example, the 44 years period of 1921-1964's witnessed just 3 droughts years and good rainfall in many years.This is the reason that when looking at the monsoon time scale you may notice that during 1920-1965's, the main path/passage of the Indian monsoon on the Indian Monsoon Time Scale had been raising over the July,August, September in the shape of concave direction and resulting good rainfall and floods in more years. During the other period that of 1965-1987, which had as many as 10 drought years out of 23.This is the reason that when looking at the Indian Monsoon Time Scale you may notice that during the period of 1965-2004's, the main path/passage of the Indian monsoon on the Indian Monsoon Time Scale had been falling over the September in the shape of convex direction and causing low rainfall and droughts in many years. Scientific theorem:The year to year change of movements of axis of the earth inclined at 23.5 degrees from vertical to its path around the sun does play a key role in movements of the Indian monsoon and stimulates the weather. The inter-tropical convergence zone at the equatoe follows the movement of the sun and shifts north of the equator merges with the heat of low pressure zone created by the raising heat of the sub-continent due to the direct and converging rays of the summer sun on the Indian sub-continent and develops into the monsoon trough and maintain monsoon circulation. Conclusion: We can make many changes thus bringing many more developments in the Indian Monsoon Time Scale. GANGADHARA RAO IRLAPATI Email me: email@example.com WhatsApp me: 91 6305571833
My heart was pumping in my chest. I was on flight 562 to Miami from San Fransisco. I watched as I counted down the minutes on the clock in front of me. Once we landed I would only have a 40-minute layover. And if that wasn't hard enough, the gate I had to get to was on the other side of the Miami airport. My mom sat next to me wringing her hands. She was worried. The entire flight here she had been worried. She said that when we were on the flight to Brazilia that is when she would stop worrying. The flight attendant came over the intercom, "I would like to inform everyone to please make their way back to their seats, we will be landing shortly. I let out a deep breath. My mom was dressed in a pair of jeans and a turtleneck. Her usual. I was wearing a pair of sweatpants, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and a pair of flip-flops. Once again my mom went over the plan with me, clicking onto the map of the airport on the mini TV in front of her. "So, here is our gate." Pointing to one end of the airport. "And here is where we are," she said, pointing to the opposite end. "We need to exit and re-enter security. Do you see how it is in a U shape? We need to be fast. So, we're not going to walk, we are going to run." She looked down at my feet. "You might want to take off those flip-flops," she said. I considered it but then I thought about how dirty the airport ground was. "Let me try," I told her. I didn't want to be exposed to all of those germs until I had to. "We are beginning to descend." the flight attendant said. And my mom sighed and sat back in her seat. 3, 2, 1, the plane rumbled like an awakened beast before settling back down as it zoomed across the tarmac. We had landed. We rolled into gate 1, and I not so patiently counted the minutes that passed by until we were able to get off the plane. 6, 7, 8, the two people in front of us got up and left, leaving us next. I looked at my mom and she looked at me and then we both took off running through the plane, out the door, and into the airport. Know we were just racing against the clock. With 32 minutes to get to the gate. People were staring at us like we didn't have our heads on, but I didn't care. The reason it was so pressing to make this flight was that 1, we would have to stay in Miami for 3 more days if we didn't and 2, my donar dad lived in Brazil, and I only got to see him 2 weeks out of the year. He amazing dad and spending any less time with him than I can is torture. We raced through the corridor, after corridor, turn after turn until finally, we reached security. We had 9 minutes left to get to the gate. My mom ran up to the security guard. "Is there any way we can get to the front of the line? My plane leaves in 9 minutes." she pleaded. The security guard looked at both of us and then sighed, "you can ask the people in front but otherwise, it is out of my hands." he said. "Okay, thanks." We weaved our way to the front of the line where a man was hauling his suitcase onto the black belt, that rolled its way into the scanning machine. "Sir," my mother asked tapping him on the shoulder. "Sir, my flight leaves in 9 minutes is there any way my and my daughter could go in front f you?" He looked at us, smiled, and then said, "Of course" then he turned to what I assumed was the rest of his group. "Hey guys, these two people have 9 minutes to get on their flight how about we all help them out?" Everyone nodded. And began to take their stuff off of the security belt, the man did the same. And instead, they started to help us put our things on the security belt. After thanking the man, we got through security and were racing down the hall when suddenly my mother stopped. What was she doing? We only had three minutes to get to the gate. "We forgot our pillow," she said. Without saying anything I quickly raced back to the security belt and grabbed it. I saw something that looked like our backpack, but no. Mom had it with us. She wouldn't leave something like that behind. So I whipped back around and ran back to where my mom was standing, handing the pillow to her. We both took off charging down the halls towards the gate. We were in terminal J and were almost there when we heard, "Last call for White. Last call for white." And then again, but this time in Portuguese! "Ultima chamada para White. Ultima chamada para White." My mom turned to face me, "Are you going to be okay if I run ahead?" I just nodded, I couldn't say anything, I was too out of breath. So she ran down the hall, and without caring what other people thought started yelling in Portuguese, "We're here! We're here!" We finally made it to the gate, out of breath and sweating, and got onto the plane. That's when my mom realized her backpack was missing. She asked them if she could go back to get it but they said no. Even though the rubber bands for my braces were in there. The flight attendant came and asked, "so... are you going to Brazil?" My mom looked at me and said, "Yes, we are going to Brazil."
“You see up there? That is Sethan. For sure, it's a long way from here,” he pointed almost at the sky “but you will be there by the end of the day if you start walking at a slightly faster pace. This much should get you going.”, he then imitated the gait of Mr. Bean, especially when he goofs-up something and tries to evade the scene. He wasn't trotting. I wouldn't classify it as running either. “You want some sheep milk? Munsi gives a lot these days. You might want to try it. It is very healthy, Maa says”. He was a little boy with mandarin features. Slits for eyes, brown hair and a wide, wicked smile. Wide enough for me to see that his teeth weren't a complete set. “So, do you want it?” he interrupted again. I was running, fleeing the dirt and soot of Delhi, the aimless herd of men wandering like sheep, the constant blaring of horns, and of course, the gloom that usually surrounds these metros. Children selling pens that won't work to buy tubes of whiteners, men breaking their women and adolescents breathing petrol, this was Delhi. So desperate was my run that it had brought me almost five hundred and fifty kilometres north, from the puzzling streets of Delhi to the solitude of Prini. Sandwiched somewhere between the Pir-Punjal and the Dhauldar ranges, it was a hamlet, silent and sleepy. And yet there he was, a kid with mandarin features, tagging at the end of my heavy jacket, desperately trying to sell me some milk. I must admit, he was quite successful in bringing back the Delhi salesman to life. “No, I do not have any money to give you kid. You see, we are walking uphill, it's nearly eighteen kilometres from Manali to Sethan. People usually don't do that. They hire a jeep or a cab or whatever. No cab, no jeep, no money!” I raised my hands to surrender. I could see that the latitudes and longitudes of disappointment had started to materialise on his rather broad yet smooth forehead. “We don't sell things. New people don't usually come here. They go straight up. I thought you might be tired, that bag looks heavy”, he pointed to my bag. For sure, it was heavy. There was one litre of branded vodka in it. “I never asked you for money.” “Let's take a photograph?” I tried to dilute his disappointment, of course, with no success. We took one good photograph and two bad ones. Bad, because I was distracted. The lorry of thoughts had started to move. Deep down, I reflected on the cosmic damage my soul had endured. I had become what I was fleeing. I saw my silhouette under the dim street lights of Delhi, a part of my eternal being, damaged forever, adulterated with greed, lust, and self-indulgence. I saw a peculiar completeness in him, a little boy, simmering with life, overflowing with the compassion that made him human. The one who gives, possesses the least. This humble establishment had a few bovines. A little later, a rather large flock of sheep hopped by. Hues trapped in their woollen curls, mahogany brown, carbon black, snow-white, and everything in-between. The apple trees were stunted under the enormous shower of the Himalayan snow. Weeds and vines slashed through the causeway that withered across its ends. The rivulets broke into swirling motion and crossed the humble fields haphazardly. I slowly gasped, almost inaudibly, lest I break the song of nature. “What a colossal mess.”, I whispered. I felt lost among these people who dwelled rough, ate rough, lived rough but were as delicate as the heavenly snowflakes, suspended in the Himalayan air, almost like the Aurora. The children here were high on the Himalayan breeze, scented lightly with woody Deodar trees. The deep green forests echoed of a lonely woman singing a hymn. The beetles and bees murmured in unison with the song. The women washed their clothes in a rhythm that synced with the song of rustling leaves. The trees made love, brushing past against each other at the right places, kissing, when they had the chance. A Himalayan bulbul broke into a sudden spurt of shrill tones. I could hear the older trees whisper among themselves, exchanging sermons, contemplating an incident of a distant past. This is what heaven must look like. The earth was fragrant, quenched with the snowy water, almost freezing. I felt weak in my knees. Brushing off snow from a large stone, I gulped one large spray of air and sat down. “Bring me some milk, will you?” A smile started dancing on his features, his narrow eves narrowed even more and the missing tooth started peeping from behind the curtains of happiness. All of mankind's purpose, brimming in a small cup. I drank it to the repeating sound of a handloom nearby, to the romantic whispers of trees making love and to the birdsong of the Bulbul. Sitting there, I contaminated the calm of the place with the chaos of my mind.
How do you survive a holocaust, I remember asking myself. When you see a child, you don't expect them to grow up. You expect them to stay small and ask “why” until you run out of reasons to give them. You expect them to spill milk and cry and you teach them to clean it up. You expect them to be scared of the dark and the boogyman, so you look under the bed and in the closet to show them that there's nothing there. But the child eventually learns how to drink without a sippy cup. And the child stops asking “why” and stops wondering because it knows what curiosity does. And they learn that there are things much scarier than the boogyman and the dark. “Let's go see Papa,” my dad calls from the front door. I grab my sandals and meet him at the bottom of the stairs. We exit the tall iron spiked front gates and begin walking down a dirt road. The air in Nigeria is thick with sand. I cough, struggling to keep up with my dad. He walks two steps ahead, his lungs unfazed. “Edewu,” the villagers greet us as we march. Their igbo dialect rolls off their ounce. The word is one of the very few I've learned during my visit. I think it means ‘blessings.' I return the greeting with a wave and half a smile. My dad leads the way, slipping past the crowds of people and their blessings, sparing no time for friendly small talk. The walk is only but five minutes. A direct path from my dad's house to his dad's house; a lifeline of sorts. My dad is the oldest son of eight children. “Your uncle Charlie lives over there.” He points to the left at a sky blue house hidden behind a collection of palm trees. I nod. I've never seen my uncle Charlie before. His house is a snapshot of sibling rivalry the way his is built one story taller than my dad's three story flat. My dad takes my hand in his and we cross a gravel road. The buzz of mopeds and motorcycles rush past us barely missing our heels. My dad looks to the right at a run down mud house shaded with rusted tin sheets. “Your uncle Sabinus lived here. They murdered him. Poison.” All the houses of my relatives line the dirt path like a museum of his childhood, their houses as empty as skeletons. His tongue doesn't slip when it speaks of poison. He doesn't stutter or cry. He soldiers on ahead to copper gates and thrusts open the doors to his father's compound. A monopoly of mud houses scatter the lot placed so tightly together they nearly stand atop each other. A broken down Mercedes marks the entry way to my dad's childhood home. The first car he ever learned how to drive, a dusty relic of his past. Two graves sit at his feet. Taking a handkerchief from his pocket he wipes down the first. “Mazi Vitalis Nweze Nwocha” the inscription reads. My grandfather. He bows his head in silent prayer. “Your grandfather was a fugitive of the war. They annihilated us. Burned us alive like sacrificial animals.” My dad says “they strapped people to military vehicles while their lower limbs dragged helplessly beneath them. I was only 12 at the time.” I stay silent. He tells me about the Birafian War. How Nigerian soldiers raided houses in the middle of the night with machetes, painting walls scarlet. How as a kid, he built a bunker big enough for nine people in the back of his house to hide his father from being recruited into the Birafian army. My dad is 64 now. He dusts off hid hands and pockets his handkerchief sweeping fours years of bloodshed back under the rug. We turn to leave his compound passing more unmarked graves on the way out. I look at him, realizing for the first time how silent it really is when a heart breaks. As kids we are taught not to cry over spilt milk. The war taught my dad not to cry over blood either.
The influx of regret first hit me by the Plague Column: an exquisitely ornate Baroque memorial with embellished gold iconography. I had been in Vienna for fifteen hours, and the toll of isolation was bearing down on me with a harsh frigidity, instilling in me something I had forgotten in lieu of my wanderlust: I cannot thrive alone. To ache with such despair beneath a bleak, passionless January sky is profoundly demoralising; the absence of light is a sickness to our nature. My limbo was the the Graben, lonesome in its romantic crowds and chilling in its creamy, mint intricacies. I hope I would have escaped this desolation some other way had I not, in my freezing endeavours heard the faint warmth of a jazz piano, followed distantly by the animated vibrations of a double bass. Driven delirious by solitude, something within me was galvanised by such familiarity, and propelled me towards the sound. As if rushing me onwards, the wind began to curl more bitterly, and the air ebb more icily. At first I couldn't find it; the jumbled letters 'JAZZLAND' seemingly lead to an empty, alleyway shrouded in gloom. It was the glowing of a distant stranger's cigarette that suggested there was life beyond the fuzzy darkness, and as dusk gave way to shadows, the jazz grew stronger, drawing me closer. A door marked the end of the trail - a door that murmured with a muffled clamour, thin lines of light seeping through the cracks. A door that, upon pushing open, flings you into a soul-igniting, smokey, vintage effervescence, where jazz drips from the ceiling like rich honey and a golden glow emanates from the lowly-lit lamps. Only yards away, a pianist, double bassist, saxophonist and trumpeter were melting languidly into the groove of 'Fever', perfectly synchronised in their musical whims. I dwell on these happenings, because they illustrate that in the ardent nature of curiosity, we are distracted from the despondency of negative emotion. Fascination, and to a further extent, purpose, drive us. To be aimless is to be lost, and to be lost is to despair. When I arrived in Vienna, the dream was to wander, to gaze and to be enamoured in an enchanting European city. It was to wait for the charm rather than to seek it out. Only in retrospect do I see how senseless that ambition was - if it can even be referred to as an ambition. As humans we crave purpose and destination, henceforth why curiosity is so important and inherent to us. The anonymity of solo-travelling, and the lack of community can feel stagnant, and without the effort to forge a path we are left drifting. However, to actively seek out or create life's charms is revolutionary, not only in solo-travel, but everywhere. Putting this into practise engulfed me into a deep affection for Vienna, and brought my attention to its most captivating intricacies. Upon rising in the morning, a destination was to be discussed and decided amongst the party (myself and a mustard notebook), and left unscheduled so as not to vanquish the unrestricted spontaneity of discovering a city alone. With a purpose, my meanderings of the city did not feel idle, but exploratory and fulfilling. January's greyed skies became silvery and pearl-like; its bitter air became wintry and mystically misty, and its bare trees became gothically alluring. Most frequently, I would indulge in Viennese coffee culture, and take myself to the cafes where red-velvet encases the walls, and delightful jazz floats through from the bar all the way to the cosy fire crackling by the oak table of reading material. One might argue that there is something aimless about lounging in a coffeehouse for mornings on end, admiring the fresh sprinkling of snow from frosted windows, however, the curiosity does not stop there. It is everywhere, from perusing the quaintly stamped menu, to observing the eccentric characters swanning about, to spilling lucid words into your mustard notebook, to deciding on the next destination - be it the clock museum or the honey boutique. To be purposeless is to be lost; it only births nihilism, and futility. However, to be curious is to unveil a whole realm of delights. To seek the charm in life is to stumble on knowledge, to unveil destinations and to delve into the earth. As humans, it is our purpose to be curious.
“Lucky to be in love,” my friend Jenny said, wishing me well on my short vacation to see my boyfriend. Love it was indeed, and I found myself on a small dirty airplane - bargain flight - from Palm Beach to Pittsburgh, my suitcase, bludgeoned from its harrowing business trip overland to Mexico, stuffed with all the winter clothes in my possession. During my flight I thought of my beloved Justin, chivalrously driving the hour and a half from Seven Springs Mountain Resort to collect me at the arrivals gate, imagining him in his red 4Runner, nicknamed “Gaia,” listening to the Disco Biscuits and drumming his hand on the steering wheel. Albeit eleven years my senior, our age difference didn't seem to affect our almost immediate rapport. “You're ageless,” he said to me once, “just like me.” My roommate and I swap stories one night like playing cards, tossing them back and forth across our square wood kitchen table, which reminds me of dorm issue furniture in our employer owned apartment just south of West Palm Beach. “First kiss?” “Terrible. Holiday traditions?” “Seeing all my Florida cousins. Lots of singing. Meeting their significant others.” Her parents live two hours away and throw an annual Christmas party. “That's always fun! And sometimes funny…” “I know!” She laughs, demure. “I don't know if it would stress me out to bring a boy home to meet my parents. I guess I would want them to like him.” “I used to bring my college boyfriend home for school breaks all the time.” I twist the faucet, water running, time for dishes. “His parents are expats and were living in India, so he spent a lot of holidays with us.” I think of kind, intelligent Seth, ornithology aficionado, sitting beside me in my Subaru as we rolled across the Mass Pike on our way from Cornell to Rhode Island. Unable to drive a stick shift, he was always relegated to the passenger seat. “Aww, that's so fun!” “It was! When I broke up with him, I warned my Mom, because he'd spent so much time with all of us!” I'm laughing now. For some reason, it suddenly seems hilarious. “He actually invited me to spend a month in India with him and his parents, but I said no. I got a career related opportunity and, well, that was more important to me in that moment.” Dishes are in the rack, dripping. Dampen the sponge. Wipe the counter. I remember not feeling very sad when I said goodbye to him then, more excited about my opportunity. I can recall the feeling of getting in my car and driving south, feeling less sad to leave him and more freed from a mantle. “I guess we both should have seen the end coming at that point! I think we broke up about two months later? But we're friends again now, actually.” “I think it's a little weird you're still friends!” She laughs. She's very conservative. Sometimes I feel like gender roles and the marriage plot rule her life. “But I guess knowing your personality, I'm not surprised after all!” I'm laughing again, mesmerized by our differences. I put the water to boil. “You want tea?” “No thanks. But India, that's a huge commitment! I understand why you didn't want to go.” I flop back down in my dormitory chair to face her. Squat, square wooden back and arms, all blunt edges, scratchy navy blue seat cushion. “If Justin asked me to go to India for a month, I'd drop everything.” And it's true, I would. “Well, your priorities are different now!” In reality, my priorities aren't really that different. What's different is that while Seth saw someone he thought I was but who I really wasn't, Justin perceived me exactly for myself. The alienating sensation of being misconstrued by someone close to you was replaced by the warm, inclusive sensation of being identified exactly for who you are. Of course I would go to India with Justin. Indeed, I'd go anywhere! The world waited… but first, Pittsburgh.
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