Long Way Home

Seeing your home so close in front of you puts you in a panic.

It has been years, no, decades, since you’ve last been so close to home. So close to the embrace of your parents, so close to the familiar smell of rice cooking in the pot and the sweet stench of rice wine fermenting.

Walking up to the final bus stop, a spur of the moment decision puts you on the looping sightseeing bus, not the direct business route home. 6am in the morning leaves this bus eerily empty, even as the Microsoft employees grudgingly pile onto the other bus.

“Ha, suckers” you think to yourself. this route was twice as long but half as cheap, because compared to today’s motto of “time is money”, these rat racers can’t lose a single moment of their precious, money-making time.

You’ve had your share of that. You’ve had your share of greed and misanthropy, of jealousy and lust. So many long years were spent wandering out in those cold nights, hoping for change, change that would give your autistic daughter a better life in the future, change that your friends could accept your philanthropy, that they wouldn’t laugh when you had your educational startup in Africa.

But now wasn’t the time for that. Challenges were past, now was the time to finally get back to home.

Remembering the times you left brings a mist to your eyes. Every single farewell, those sweet “good byes, but see you soon!” were still in your mind. You remember moving around as a child, knowing that there was such a small chance for return, that this was really it, that those friends who were so near and dear are going to forget you soon. You remember those graduations, when there was so much hope in the air. Those times, when those around really were the best and the brightest, who were unified in one single belief that we could change the world.

Those times, so vibrant in the past, faded as the metonymy of work overtook it.

The landscape starts evolving as the bus takes its familiar route. You already told the driver to keep quiet on this tour, that really, I’ve seen all of these places and you really don’t need to describe them to me today. The driver/tour guide, looking as chipper as possible, sank down and revealed a world-weary sigh of relief. So as you pass the rolling hills and begin climbing the mountain, you look out in remembrance.

You remember the days of young love and of running after your dreams. Those days, whether if they were colored by those rosy-tinted glasses of romanticism that you so loved as a kid, or if made more beautiful by aging, seem so long ago and so wonderful. Where did all those images go? Where were those days of lost youth?

Graduations of years past begin flashing through your mind as the local auditorium comes by. Every generation of students, in high school and in college, comes and seems to visit you as you gaze upon the sacred hall. Where modern giants once rested and cheered in, where your closest friends were once upon a time.

Ah, your friends. Scattered all over the world by now, and probably doing amazing things in their own respects. Perhaps one of the best things of being in touch with such a great class was knowing what a difference everyone has been able to make in the world.

Climbing to the top of the mountain seemed to take a bit more out of the old tour bus than the driver thought, but the view was certainly worth it. Even as the surroundings were still covered by that characteristic blanket of clouds and rain, just seeing the skyscrapers sticking proudly above center you. Yes, home was so so close now.

Like a beacon of light, a city upon a shining hill, the light upon the world, everyone had such great dreams, and yet… as the years passed, they slowly dropped out of touch. Sure, their names came up in the newspaper eventually, but one after another, it was more likely to see their downfalls, as accepting those bribes that they really shouldn’t have, for those corner-cutting operations that ruined their reputations.

And yet, there was still hope. Even as one fell, twenty more associates rose to take her place, as you could see the newer generation rise in place. Oh yes, there was so much hope for them, and as foolish as that idea was, you couldn’t help but place your almost forgotten ambition upon them. Those smiles, those eager eyes will be the ones to carry the torch forwards.

The sound of you reaching into your bag echoes through the empty bus, but your jaded hands retrieve a beautiful picture of your wife and kids. The thought of finally leaving them on this trip home was almost unbearable, but you knew you needed to go home and see your mom.

The bus rushes down the hill and you just catch a glimpse of your old home, the home of your childhood. How many dreams upon dreams were made in that simple adobe! How many adventures were done in that tiny backyard, and how many tears were shed in your mother’s arms! But those times of innocence were past, and just as that house crumbles, so has your family.

The death of your dad 10 years past really was hard on you, but even so on your mom. She was always the strong independent one, and the passing of her eternal arguing partner made a hole in your house. As the voices, shouting about if we should get soy or almond milk in such a unique mix of Chinese and English, quieted, so did your house settle down.

But that was to come. You still had a long ways to go.

The long way home was the perfect time to look out and look in at the same time. It was the final leg of the final journey, and even though counting your blessings wasn’t an easy task, it was one that brought you solace nonetheless.

Looking into the rain-fogged window, you see your reflection. Once so pure, the laugh-lines on your face and those crows eyes really have snuck up on you. But they made you who you were, whether it was the brows of frustration when dealing with those stubborn clients who just couldn’t see the future of your ideas, or with teaching your kids. They were there to remind you of the bittersweet times so long ago.

Rounding the last street into home imparted upon you a heavy sigh. Things were wrapping up, loose ends were being tied up, and closure was being made. At last, there was peace.

You walk off the bus, thanking the driver for all that he did, for taking you on this journey of memories, for reliving your life one last time. Looking back, there were things that you so wanted to change, but all in all, you were happy with the way it turned out.

You look towards those shining gates in front of that house. Those gates, that kept out the wind and kept in the warmth of the hearth, have never looked more inviting. Swinging them wide open, you swear you can hear the strains of Back playing inside.

You open those doors and look at the inviting smile of your mother and the approving glance of your father. Looks like there was a party in celebration of your return today, as all of those friends have gathered here today and looking at their faces, you see not the weariness that you remember but the joy and anticipation that you loved.

Alas, you enter the embrace of those long-gone friends and family. Happiness was upon you, even as it meant the passing of the only world you have known. You close your eyes one last time and sleep in total bliss.

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