Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Trip

You’re going on a trip. It will be the longest trip of your life, and you’ll never be able to come back. You’ve packed a bag. Three bags. You’ll be going with your wife, and a third person you haven’t met yet.

There’s no telling when your plane will leave. You might get it narrowed down to the month, but your travel agent knows that’s just a guess. “Your trip will probably start in September,” she says. Any day now. Your flight could leave in the middle of the night. Or first thing in the morning. There’s just no telling. The message will come out of nowhere – sudden and urgent. Now. Grab your bags. Get to the tarmac.

The flight could last anywhere between several hours and several days. It might be smooth. It might not. Rarely, planes crash. They’ll offer you medicine to help with the travel, but there’s no telling how you’ll react to what they give you. Maybe you’ll want to sleep through the flight and wake up once you’re there. Maybe you want to be there for every bump and drop -- the whole experience. Whatever it is. However long it lasts.

There are maps and guides and books and plenty of stories about the trip you’re taking. The closer you get to the flight, the more you want to know. You think the information will make it easier. Less scary. It doesn’t, but you keep reading and listening, because there’s nothing else to do but wait.

Once you’ve got your ticket, people tell you things you’ve never heard before. Stories of hope and despair and brightness – hidden gems of things in people you’ve known your entire life. Now that you’re going, you’re part of a new community. An exciting , secret society of people you’ve lived among your entire life but who are only now inviting you in. Now that you’re going.

So many have gone on this trip before, yet their stories don’t help much. They’re vague. Inconsistent. Some tell you not to worry about the trip -- just show up. Everything will work itself out. Others tell you preparation is a must. Be vigilant. Pack plenty and don’t travel alone. Watch the food. Be wary of strangers. Hire a guide.

The one thing everyone agrees on is: “Overall, it’s worth it. You should go.”

But sometimes they don’t look you in the eye when they say that. No one wants to regret their trip. It’s expensive. Time consuming. The kind of trip everyone knows about and asks about every time they see you, and so to say it wasn’t worth it isn’t an option. Really, it doesn’t matter what they say. You’ve already got your ticket. There’s no turning back now.

And the whole world is anticipating with you. They’re watching from the other side, and they’re beckoning for you to come. To join them. In that place you won’t understand until your plane touches down. And even then, like every trip, the stories and the pictures and the maps will all dissolve as the real experience rushes around you from all sides and angles, and swallows you up and rolls you over until you can’t remember what it was like to NOT be where you were going. Until the day you can’t remember who you were before you took the trip.

But you haven’t gone yet. Your plane hasn’t left. There are still no dates printed on your three tickets. No destination.

And so they ask “Are you ready?” And they ask “How do you feel?”

And I sit here and I watch the clock and count down the minutes to a journey no one can explain, and that will happen any moment. Now, and for the rest of my life.

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