Leaving

A few weeks ago, I took on the mammoth task I’ve been putting off for months: plotting my new project. When I finally did, index cards and all, I felt a lot better about undertaking the project itself. I compartmentalized plot points and broke them down into achievable chunks, a third of which are already written and need developing. It felt productive to take that step toward completing the project I started earlier this year, almost like quarantine hasn’t been entirely wasted.

After plotting and getting down to write today (on a Wednesday, which doesn’t happen very often), I also noticed I haven’t posted a novel extract in ages. Julia Cameron would call this synchronicity, and even though I finished The Artist’s Way [LINK] weeks ago, I’m glad some of the tools have stayed with me. Others would call this being lazy and killing two birds with one stone, but I choose to be kind to myself today.

As with other excerpts, this piece is an extract of an extract so I don’t cannibalize my own work, but it’s enough to keep me accountable and to keep me writing. Writing something that’s not emails…

Enjoy! I’d love to hear what you think.

Image of person sitting in an airport waiting area, slumped on top of a suitcase.
Photo by Joyce Romero on Unsplash

“I still think it’s horribly irresponsible of you to do this.”

“Thanks for the ride to the airport.”

“How would you have gotten here otherwise?”

Xander sighed and looked straight ahead. The other cars zoomed by, yet she didn’t seem to be moving at all. The hour-and-a-half-drive to Dulles Airport was getting her somewhere and nowhere.

“Make sure you get yourself a new winter jacket,” her mom said. “That one is falling apart, and right now it’ll be colder than here. It likely won’t snow, but it’ll be rainy and gray all the time. With that sun that doesn’t keep you warm.”

“Okay.”

“And good rainboots. You’ll be walking a lot too.”

“Yup.”

“Although why you want to even go is beyond me.”

Xander stayed quiet. The potholes of I-495 were slowing down traffic, and as a Maryland-tag Civic inched its way in front of them to switch lanes, her mom swerved into the right lane without looking and honked the horn.

“Jesus Christ, could you be careful?”

“Don’t be taking the Lord’s name in vain,” her mom said. “And what did you want me to do when that a-hole cuts me off?”

Xander rolled her eyes. Their car finally merged into the exit and then the airport access road. The next eleven miles were quiet.

They drove without music as was her mother’s custom, not because it was distracting, but because she didn’t enjoy it. She joined the few people in the world who actively hated music, from rhythmic chanting to the current top hits.

Xander watched the buildings zoom by. The office parks, hotels, apartments and parking garages. This part of the city was ugly, and it was unfair that this is the last thing she would see of her home. She’d thought about going hiking one last time when her bags were packed, to stamp a last image of green before all she saw on a daily basis was concrete and double-decker buses, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. All hiking trails led to the lake, and she didn’t want to go to the lake.

Xander and her mother made it to the signs for the different airlines and parking garages, and Xander knew they were getting close. She waited for the butterflies to flutter in her stomach, the lump in her throat as she got closer to saying goodbye to her mother, her only family, but she didn’t feel anything. She even waited for the urge to run her hand through her hair like she knew she did when she was nervous, but nothing came. Her hair stayed safely inside her beanie.

A familiar feeling of feeling nothing. Of not remembering when was the last time she laughed, or felt nervous or was angry.

They soon passed the last airline signs and entered the main traffic circle at the airport, and as her mother merged into a tricky lane without looking, the first trigger of feeling came: chest tightening and a racing heart. Maybe Xander was nervous after all.

Her mother continued on the circle toward the drop-off area, and Xander unclipped her seatbelt before the car stopped.

“Hold on, let me park and see you off properly.”

“No, it’s okay,” Xander said and opened her door in the same instant. The February air bit at her face and she zipped up her jacket almost to her chin. The trunk was already open when she went to get her huge and heavy backpack and her handbag. The car was still running, but her mother was out with her and standing next to the trunk as Xander hoisted the bag onto her shoulders in an unpracticed way.

“You should have gotten a rolling one. You’ll be walking a lot from the airport to wherever you’re staying.”

“But my hands will be free.”

“I don’t want to hear complaining about an aching back, then.”

Not that she would hear from Xander at all. Even as she thought about not talking to her mother as often, she waited for the sadness to fill her chest and tighten it, for the pricking of her eyes to make breathing difficult, for the ringing in her ears to make it hard to hear. Sensations she’d grown used to since last year that now she expected them. But nothing came.

“It’s fine. I’ll just go straight through and I won’t have to carry it until I get there.” Her shoulders already ached, but she welcomed the feeling as the rest eluded her.

“Okay, well, fine.” Her mom slammed the trunk shut and walked around the car to the sidewalk. “Please let me know when you get there and get WiFi, even from the airport. You know how to get where you’re going?”

“Airport, Metro, blue line to black. Get off at Farm something.”

“Chalk Farm, I think it’s called. But let me know when you land at least.”

“Yes, okay,” Xander said and leaned in to hug her mom. “Bye, mom. Love you. Look after the house and yourself.”

“Love you too, baby. Please be careful.”

Xander thought she should turn around and wave when she got inside the departures lobby, but when she did, her mother had already pulled out and was making her way around the traffic circle. She should have felt hurt, but she was relieved and wondered if she should have turned and waived sooner.

Other travelers and family members stepped out of her way as she walked to the ticket counter and she wondered how heavy her bag would be in the end. Before it was her turn, she hoisted it off her shoulders, dragging it with her when the attendant called her forward. She stumbled in answering how long she’d be staying in London and settled for “a while,” but the attendant pressed her and asked her if it’d be longer than six months. Xander said yes.

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