31st August 2013, Burleigh Waters, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
I’d felt great anxiety for this day. I’d had nightmares that meant I had to leave sooner than I was supposed to and then I’d wake up breathing heavily, looking at the fan on the ceiling as a reminder that the adventure isn’t over just yet. In the two months I’ve been here, I’ve acquired far too many possessions and I have to leave some behind to my great annoyance so that I can fit the Pennyboard my sister requested into my case. There’s a painful feeling in my chest, raw reality of this being the last time. The “end of it all” to quote Theory of a Deadman’s “End of the Summer.” She (my aunt) lingers in the doorway as I unpack and repack my belongings. There’s an unavoidable elephant in the room but its hours before my flight to Sydney, so I talk for England in the best way I can in a desperate attempt to temporarily fill the gaps in my heart. She hands me a wrapped up present and I take it, hoping not have to open it there and then because the fissure is getting deeper with every passing minute and I don’t want to cry. I’ve come to see crying as weak, feminine and petty. I joke that this present just adds to the problem of my packing dilemma. She makes me open it there and then. It’s a jewellery box with the Australian flag on it. “It’s for when you’re at university,” she says. The cuteness and thoughtfulness of the gesture makes me feel my chest constrict and my lip begins to tremble, so I throw the emotion into a hug because it’s not time to breakdown yet. She makes me a sandwich, I reluctantly eat it even though my stomach has constricted and I have no appetite- the way my body usually reacts when I’m truly upset about something.
Before I know it I’m saying goodbye to a very old Jack Russell named Zach and baby cradling a cat called Merlot, as the car is packed and we drive to Brisbane airport. It’s an hour long drive and the weight of the goodbye makes it hard. Again I’m in my head, thinking just about anything and everything, fiddling with my bracelet. The elephant left the house and took the middle seat of the car. She (my aunt) leans against the window lost in thought, barely speaking as Cooper asks us both questions about England in the travel book that I got for him. I tell him all the things we’ll get to see and do in England in a desperate attempt to fill the gaps in my heart and the countdown to obliteration looms over me. I know my aunt is being serious when she says she’ll never return to England. I know that I’m a symbol of something slightly more than an 18 year old with some huge life ambitions. I know there is nothing I can do to make this easier but my goodness, if I could I’d do it in a heartbeat. My throat is sore. I’m being strangled by my own emotions. I don’t know what to do or say. I’ve never had to do this before. Is it youth and innocence that is making it so unbearable? The words won’t form without tears spilling so I decide to give up this favourite bracelet of mine and let her have it, letting the physical contact of hand holding speak volumes. As we walk into Brisbane airport I realise I’ve left my tickets in the car (I’m not concentrating). As Nick goes to the car I request a photo in our matching hoodies. Silence seems to grip us all as we sit at the different gates. I give Cooper a pound and a euro and tell him to “start saving kid” to lighten the mood. Eventually my flight is called and the moment has arrived. We’ve waited it out until the last possible moment but there’s no avoiding the elephant now. Cooper grabs my leg jokingly “don’t go Lisa, don’t go.” He’s a really cool 14 year old. I hug Nick (my uncle) first and it’s in this moment my heart obliterates. I’m not embarrassed and I let it happen. I hug Cooper and as I let him go, I see Soraya’s (my aunt) wall has crumbled in front of me and I’m crying so hard into her chest I can’t see anymore. “We had our time Lise,” she says, famous final words that will forever live on in my memory. I check in and walk towards the plane, taking one glance of them all and putting it to memory. I choose a window seat and cuddle Tigerlily, my toy Koala I’d bought from Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary after fulfilling my lifelong dream of holding a koala. It’s not a busy flight and I’m left alone to cry in peace. I finally get to see the Sydney Opera House from the plane and the Harbour Bridge, the highlight of this agonising day. At Sydney I meet a Kiwi (New Zealander) who clearly feels sorry for me with my red puffy eyes and toy Koala and he helps me find my way to my next flight. The airline staff give me passes to get through customs quicker. It’s a quiet kind gesture that touches me. I sit with some international kids on the way to Singapore and I see the French fifteen year old turning a blind eye as my eyes just gush tears for hours on end. I write to occupy my mind but words don’t take away the wounds of goodbye in my chest. I’ve just lived out my dream at 18, there’s also a “what now” element to my life, although I’m going to university in a months’ time. I cry again as I wait at Singapore. Something has died inside of me. I check Facebook and my friends try to comfort me with “it’s never goodbye, always see you later!” Fortunately for me I’ve purposely filled my heart and mind with the next trip. I’ve got a week in Leicester before seeing my extended family in London doing touristy things with my best friend Katie. Two weeks and then I’m off to Keele University. It’s weird being back in England, almost uncomfortable because I feel out of place, but in time I settle back into a routine and go back to work. I’ve honestly never cried so much in my life. I almost feel guilty because nobody has died.
Pip picks me up, asks me the standard questions about my trip. Its 6.30am, I feel tired, grotty and heartbroken. It’s strange to be looking at English road layouts again as we zoom down the motorway headed to Leicester from London. When I arrive at my house at 8am, my dogs greet me, bounding around with genuine excitement which makes my heart gush with love. The one thing that gets me when I return from a place is touching the door handle to my bedroom. Have you ever thought about how many of those you’ll touch in your life? It always feels small in my hand compared to wherever I’ve been travelling to. But nothing beats that safe feeling of familiarity. I can use my phone again now and it’s become a thing for me to start with “G’day mate” in an Aussie accent so my friends know it’s Berrie the joker on the other end. I’m really excited to see my best friend Katie, my family love her and our trip together in London is going to be fun. We’ve never been apart from each other this long before, which will change when I go to university and she does in Jan 2014 but still, it’s a long time to be that far from the best friend you’ve had since the beginning of time. My chest still hurts but I know I just have to keep breathing. I’m going to uni in a few weeks! I’m finally leaving Hinckley for a brand new city to live in and new faces. I can’t wait.