I used to travel light, carry-on luggage only, sometimes nothing more than a last-minute backpack. I loved exploring new cities in airports that all looked the same. I called myself a traveller (in a tone that rhymes with wanker).
Carelessly, I waltzed past the luggage carrousel.
Carelessly, past the people stuck waiting.
Carelessly lost, as in Instagram #lost.
It felt like the background music played just for me, back when I took a perverse delight in stretching out the edges of what I know, to see how many more certitudes I could fit in there. I would rarely go back, only forward and at random, and never in one place too long, almost as if I was not afraid to have nowhere to go back to.
Of course, I knew my anchor was both heavy and brittle, but my life hack (my disaster management strategy) worked well enough: I would write emails to myself, sending them to an old Hotmail inbox I rarely checked. Once I hit Send, the words were no longer mine to carry and I had lightness again. I had tricked my brain into believing it could offload feelings, and free up space for something more.
Your man was right when he said writing favours forgetfulness. For a minute, I could forget. Whenever anything resurfaced, I’d write another email into the void. I went on and on about almond and almond trees, so I could move on to a new airport. I wrote a lot about home, and homes, and being lost, and wondering, and wandering, and I clicked Send. I waxed lyrical about a fantastic city that shone so bright in my memory that I doubt it ever really existed. I clicked Send. I remembered dancing on beaches, drunk on what I still call Mexican beer, back when I could just go to the beach on a random Tuesday evening. I clicked Send, and I sent more words into my Hotmail void. I couldn’t type fast enough to control the flow of thoughts spilling out everywhere, and I almost ran out of words to describe the places and things I’ve lost, as I pretended it’s not me that’s lost.
One day, feeling brave, feeling bored, feeling drained, I logged into Hotmail. I’m not sure what I was hoping for, but there it was, staring back at me, my fortress of bad poetry. In the intimacy of writing to myself, with all the creative freedom that entails, I had written the same boring email over and over and over again. Sadly, I had nothing to say that hadn’t already been said a thousand times, and a thousand times better, with those very same words. My feelings, those I thought I couldn’t carry, they traced a labyrinth of cookie-cutter platitudes, light as a feather. My emails read like an attempt at pastiche of everything in the canon of looking back, and I’m not even sure whose imagination I stole. So many other people danced on my Batroun beaches, much better writers conjured a glitzy Beirut out of the chaos of their memories. Here I was, trying to reinvent longing for pine trees and olive groves with microwaved words. Here I was, trying to forget, and in the process, I built a copy of the fake, and that is treason worse than forgetfulness.
I deleted all my emails, and then I deleted the account itself,
and I mourned it for almost a whole day,
because Hotmail is the unorganised inbox of a smaller world.
I stopped writing, and now, when I travel, I plan ahead. I check my baggage allowance, I weigh the suitcase thrice. Now I go back and forth between my centres of gravity like a confused pendulum, looking for the scattered bits and pieces of the person I could have been had I stayed here, the person I could have been had I been born there. Now everywhere is a real place. Even airports are real places, and the worst part is the luggage carrousel. Of course, my suitcase always comes last. Karma’s not just a bitch, she’s a poet. You see, I have a fancy degree certifying my nuanced understanding of identities with complicated storylines instead of homes. I have written very serious dissertations dissecting transnational communities and diasporas.
Well joke’s on me, because it’s all about the luggage
The weight of the suitcases we carry around
The weight of the physical baggage
And the carrousel curse
So, I anxiously wait for my suitcase filled with power banks, pharmaceuticals, and fancy chocolate. And then, I wait for my suitcase filled with little luxuries: homemade soap and zaatar and arak (and regrets, and panic attacks, and questions that are not really questions but long lists of choices that I need to make, but that I will no longer write down). When I’m lucky, I manage to time my trip with the green almond season. One day I’ll make it a one-way trip, but I don’t know which way it will be. So I freak out a little more, and fit more soap into my suitcase, and add another bag of sumac, because who knows when I’ll come back. For all I know, I’ve already eaten my last green almond ever. That’s not something anyone should ever write about.
Nada writes about technology, tech labour, and mediated identities. She is Lebanese, has lived in Ireland, and is now in Berlin.