Past - Xinyao "Lily" Xu '17

With the increasingly violent vibration of the engine and a strong force pushing under the cabin, the plane with the label “UA” on the front swiftly took off. It took me away from all my family and friends, it took me away from the land where I belong, and headed towards the unfamiliar destination that was fifteen hours away. Bustling street lights in the cities faded out of view. Clouds that surrounded the plane gradually thickened. The sky above came closer. The world turned quiet and empty. Smiles melted into tears. Excitement crumbled into heartache.

    I thought I always knew how it would be to leave the beloved. You said goodbye, you hugged them tightly, you said things will never change, you said I’ll miss you, you said I love you. You looked into their eyes that were filled with reluctance and woe, thinking it’s time for me to move on. And finally… you left. You strode forward without looking back, believing that your beloved would always be your beloved and they would always be there no matter what. You said to yourself, I am ready. The past is the past and my future is waiting.

    Unfortunately, the past is not just the past.

 

***

Checking my luggage at the airport filled with noise and crowds, I sensed the unease that emanated from my parents. Dad, who always stands by me and goes on and on about the importance of safety and keeping myself alert, stood silently behind the crowded line and watched me from far away, as if too reluctant to move his steps. Mom, who always emphasizes the importance of being responsible for my personal items, demanded to carry all my bags for me, grasped them tightly and tried to push me away when I tried to take my bags back. “Let me help you.” The phrase she yelled out was completely against her principle of raising a child and was never said to her daughter for seventeen years until then. “You need to take care of yourself as how I take care of you,” Mom dragged my bags along and followed my footsteps, “It’s not as easy as you think to…” “I know and I will take care of myself! Don’t you worry mom. I’m not a baby anymore.” As I interrupted, mom’s face blushed immediately, and she began to follow me more tightly without more words being said.

    Security check. Non-travelers keep out. I turned around, facing mom and dad, who stared at me quietly without being disturbed by the noise and the crowd that passed over them. All the sounds and people around us suddenly disappeared. The clock stopped clicking. It was only the three of us. Two who were being eroded by age on one side and one gleaming youth on the other. Every single movement they made was put on a slower mode as time paused and every single one of their motions magnified as they stood so close to me: dad’s fists started to clench, his eyebrow scowled, and his lips tightened; mom wrapped her coat more closely, and forced her wrinkled face into a smile that was comprised of nothing but a sense of awkwardness and a greater sense of sadness. However, there seemed to be such long distance between me and them as if there existed a gap I could never make up. I didn’t know what that was and neither did I think about it. I said goodbye. I hugged them tightly. I said things will never change. I am still your daughter and never going away. I said I’ll miss you. I said I love you. I looked into their eyes that were filled with reluctance and woe. Tears soaked mom’s face. I said to myself,  I’m over it already and mom and dad will get over it soon too. The past is the past. I’m leaving for the U.S., where my dream will start. My new life is waiting for me. I am ready.

    Striding forward full of hope and excitement, I went through the security check, thinking this is the beginning of my new life. I unconsciously looked back: those two fragile figures and familiar faces in the crowds were gone. Surprised out of no reason, an influx of emptiness and loneliness swallowed me and made me unable to breathe. I understood the gap between me and them all of a sudden. Tears streamed down my face. I was wrong. Things changed. I wasn’t ready.

 

***

    I couldn’t be happier on that day. Everyone showed up in school like princesses and princes. We rushed down to the playground with the vitality and energy of fourteen-year-olds, celebrating the middle-school graduation ceremony with joy and delight. We listened to the last speech by the head of school. We finished the last dance with the classmates we had spent twelve hours a day, three years in total with. We took out Gatorade, the drinks that only belonged to us, and cheered for the end of an era and the beginning of another era by the song of “Auld Lang Sang.” We said goodbye. We hugged each other tightly. We said things will never change and friendship lasts forever. We said we’ll miss each other. We said we’re buddies and we love each other. We looked into each other’s eyes that were filled with happiness, accompanied with reluctance and woe. We thought This is it. It’s time for me to move on. We scattered and left without looking back. We said to ourselves, I am ready. I’m going to leave for high school. The past is the past and my future is waiting.

    The next Monday, I took my backpack and went to school. Of course there was no school. I graduated. Wow. This is it, I realized. I lay down on the playground and looked up at the blue sky with white, marshmallow-like clouds. It was the same blue sky and the same marshmallow-like clouds. But those who used to lie on the grass and look at the sky and clouds with me were no longer there. Sorrow flooded my heart and tears blurred my vision. I was wrong. Things changed. I wasn’t ready.

 

***

    It was a sunny afternoon. Bright green leaves illuminated by the sunshine danced swiftly and gracefully in the wind. Hummingbirds flew around the kindergarten, singing the most delightful melody that mesmerized the most buoyant and lively six-years-olds and decorated their childhood. As the sun started to go down, I went into the sand pit, put the sand toys in order, and waited for Julia as usual. Recognizing the familiar footsteps, I turned around immediately and shouted out her name. She laughed as she ran closer and closer, always showing her smile with two of her front teeth missing. As she reached the sand pit, she jumped on me and we fell down. This was how we greeted each other.

    “Julia,” I said, “Mom told me that we are moving to another place.” Hearing what I said, she turned to me with a strange look on her rosy face, as if she didn’t understand. “Moving...to another place?” Julia put her hands on her head, as if questioning what she just heard. “Yeah. I think we are leaving here tomorrow morning” I nodded, as if I really understood. Agitated by my serious response, she lost her smile that always hung on her face. She looked at the sand silently without moving. I threw a confused look at her, who never stopped talking. At dusk, I said goodbye to Julia. I hugged her tightly.  I said things will never change and I promise I’ll see you again. I said I’ll miss you. I said you’re my best friend and I love you so much. I looked into her eyes that were filled with reluctance and woe, thinking I will make new friends and she will make new friends too. Believing she’s always there for me and I’ll always be there for her. I said to myself, I am ready to go. The past is the past. I will meet so many friends just as Julia and my future is waiting.

    Finally I moved to a new place that was two hours’ flight away from Julia. I was excited to meet new friends and see all the things I had never seen before. The sun was equally beautiful and the sand pit in the kindergarten was equally big. Nothing’s changed. In the afternoon, as the sun started to go down, I went into the sand pit and put the sand toys in order. I waited and waited, but no one came. “Where did Julia go?” I asked myself. Realizing that she was not coming as I thought when the sun reached the horizon and the sky got darker, I burst into tears and shouted out Julia’s name. Why are you not here? I was wrong. Everything’s changed. I wasn’t ready.

 

***

    The plane ascended higher and higher, flying over the limit of the sky that I could have ever imagined. The clouds turned crimson quietly in the disappearing sunshine. I looked out of the window, wiped my tears away, and started to enjoy the silence brought about by being alone. I never realized the pain of leaving my parents, nor did I realize that the eyes filled with reluctance and woe would resurface in front of me from time to time. Every time I walk around the campus that is fifteen hours’ flight away from home, I always consciously look up to the big blue sky, knowing that someone I love who live so far away share the same big blue sky with me. The fragile figures and the eyes filled with reluctance and woe would never go away. They were the past, but they were not just the past. They led me to the future that I had always wanted. They made me understand how amazing it was to feel independent and strong in an exotic land. They let me realize when I look up to the sky, that they were always there and I was never alone.

 

***

    Going to high school, I feared to talk to everyone that surrounded me. The new classroom and new faces terrified me. However, the song of  “Auld Lang Sang” echoed in my mind without going away. I looked up to the blue sky with white, marshmallow-like clouds, and smiled. Seeing the eyes that were filled with reluctance and woe, I knew that my Gatorade buddies were never away. They were the past, but they were not just the past. They rendered me courage and whispered in my ear, we are here for you. They let me realize the importance of taking a deep breath. It’s no big deal, they whispered. They taught me to look ahead towards my future without being afraid.

 

***

    I cried every day after we moved to the new place, the new place without Julia. I never stopped waiting for her on every sunny afternoon in the sand pit, with sand toys being placed in order. I would hear the familiar footsteps again and she would jump on me, saying how much she missed me. I looked up to the sky with hummingbirds flying around, hearing Julia calling my name. Her smile with two of her front teeth missing was always there. Her eyes that were filled with reluctance and woe watched me quietly, saying I love you and there will be other people that will love you as I do. She was the past, but she was not just the past. She told me to appreciate the preciousness of a good friend. She encouraged me to love as if I had never been hurt. She made me realize that whatever happens in the future, the truly beloved ones would never go away.

 

***

    Probably things will always change as time goes by.  Probably tears will still stream down my face after I realize that my life will be different when the loved ones no longer accompany me with the path I am walking on. Probably I was wrong and I will never be ready no matter what happens. But I know that my old memories will never leave and will keep helping me decide which way I should go in the future. I will love the loved ones and they will love me.

Fortunately, the past is not just the past.