Just Breathe

Bags packed, snacks prepared, alarm set, last memories captured, and clutter thrown away. The apartment was sparkling clean, dark, and silent. I was scrambling my thoughts together in anxious anticipation. It wasn’t my first move; in fact this was my fifth in the last four years. Is the taxi ordered? Are the documents in order? Is he departure time and date correct? On the morrow I would embark on a new adventure, a new chapter in my life. But why was I so worried?

The morning came quickly with the feeling of emergency and panic, a last night residue of searching the web on airport departure procedure. As I woke up, I realized the ordered taxi would come too late. Rushing to my mom’s bedroom, I tried to find as many taxi service numbers as I could. Ukraine has a tendency of not having any cabs available that early in the morning. It was four o’clock in the morning. A warm, peaceful September morning still dwelled on its summer past. It was hot, stuffy, and muggy. The air was filled with the moisture of the sea, and I could feel the salty drops on my body. There were only a few lit up windows in the apartment complex across the street, people trying to catch the last hours of sleep before rushing into a daily routine of work, school, traffic, and ideas of lunch. Only a solitary, diligent town worker was outside, sweeping the first evidences of fall, the leaves, and he seemed to enjoy his calm routine. It was like the constant tide. I could hear his “swish swooshes” minting the music of the morning. I desired to stay home, to choose the easy way, to sleep in and spend another day chatting, eating, and swimming with my mom. But, I never looked for easy ways in life, and why should I make an exception this time?

 The alarm rang again, piercing the solemn silence of the room, bringing me back to my preoccupations. I rushed to the bedroom to wake my mom, but she was sleeping so peacefully that I didn’t have the heart to do it. Finally, after a couple of minutes, the pressure of the situation caused me to yell, “Mom, wake up! We’ll be late! Wake up!”

Her shocked, but intent expression surprised me. She jumped out, carelessly throwing her comforter on the still warm and so welcoming bed. She was ready to put her multitasking skills to work in the same second, rushing to the kitchen to warm up some water for morning tea. I left her in this subtle solicitude just so I can have more time to order a taxi.

After calling every taxi service in town and being rejected each time, hope slowly faded, quickly replaced by tears rolling down my cheeks. At this time of great distress, the curiosity sparked, What would happen if I missed this flight and stayed at home? I could think of different options and solutions, and that’s what I would usually do in a similar case. But the moment the thought appeared, determined logic spoke familiar words. Don’t give up! Push through! Looking at the phone as at the enemy, I started to dial.

“Hello, ‘Taxi Road’ how can I help you?” the voice on the other end sounded so calm and tranquil.

“Can I order a cab for Ilfa and Petrova Street, please?” trying to calm and hide my frustration and fussiness, but the high pitch of the voice didn’t seem to want to listen.

“Yes, we have one available cab at this time, but it can only come in 10 minutes. Will that work for you, ma’am?”

What should I say? Should I take the offer? It seemed like the only available saving grace this morning. Or, should I refuse and take a risk to find another one? But, I was tired and done with the hard ways for this morning, and I released the words, “Yes, please!”

The scurry made the time pass quickly, but the nervousness made if feel painful. The phone lit up and proclaimed, “Your taxi is waiting for you.”

We quickly put all my luggage into the car and took off. I said to the taxi driver as we got inside, “We’re running late, please get us to the airport fast!” Now, my whole life depended on the middle age taxi driver, his driving skills, and the green color of the traffic lights.

We were cruising through familiar and well known streets of the city that quickly became my home for the last year. They were so still and restful this early morning hour, not knowing I was leaving. I wanted to capture it all and save it in my memory: Market sellers putting their fresh produce on the stand, bus stops and people walking their dogs early in the morning. I knew it wouldn’t be the same the next time I was there. The mall seemed to still remember the sound of my and my girlfriends’ heels and laughter from my last night’s farewell party.

Just in time, the national anthem started to play on the radio. What a coincidence! I thought to myself. Its words rejuvenated my weak spirit and rekindled the desire to go for my dream, even if meant moving to another country.

We got to the airport, just in time, when they opened the registration. We made it! But, the opportune arrival didn’t calm my nerves down. My whole chest was hurting, and the blood pressure rapping the heart bit in my head.

Mom seemed so preoccupied with the taxi, getting to the place on time and packing the breakfast that I could hardly tell she was nervous. But I knew my mom, and I knew her world was tumbling that day. All of her kids had left the nest, and she didn’t expect some of them to go as far as they did. She was apprehensive, trying to get all of my American friends’ phone numbers and make sure she got my new address down.

The queue moved quickly, and it was my turn to check in to the flight. I was struggling to hold back my stubborn tears. Then I looked up at my mother, and her glistening eyes mirrored mine.

We awkwardly hugged goodbye as the people in the line gave us bothersome looks. “I love you, Mom!” I tried to tell her I loved her in a comforting and “it will be okay, Mom”, mood.

The first time I really breathed that morning was on the plane. Just breath! I made it! I’m on the plane!  As I took my seat, I heard the familiar words of a flight attendant, “Dear ladies and gentlemen! On behalf of Captain Green and entire crew, welcome aboard Ukrainian International Flight Kyiv-New York.”

Now I was ready, ready to embark on a new adventure, a new chapter in my life.



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