I watch him when he doesn’t notice, as he plays video games, or types furiously on his phone, as he makes us tea, or talks to Sandra, or sleeps. I watch his face, his broad shoulders, his frown, his hearty laugh, his eyes. Oh god, those warm, wondrous, dark blue eyes where my comfort and solace have lived ever since he came. Those otherworldly eyes.
When he was born my mother was going through a violently paranoid aftermath of a nervous breakdown. It was a particularly dark period of my life, inhabited by helplessness, rage and grief that I don’t like to remember. His arrival changed her, set her on the long course to recovery. I don’t know how to explain it, only that it happened just as today happened. When he was a baby not more than a few months old, women from our street in Sanski Most would come to plead to take him home for a couple of hours, to cheer them up, to help with sadness, or loneliness, or to chase away some other dark shadow. And we’d let them, what can you say to that. They would usually bring him back later than promised, cheerful, dark clouds gone from their brow, their hearts melted a little. And it went on like that through the years, he touched every heart that came close. You may think I am exaggerating, my judgment clouded by parent’s love, but if you were to look deep into those eyes you would see it for yourself, you’d recognize the source of the healing I am talking about.
I watch him until my heart can’t take it anymore, and seek distraction in small fixes around the house. It doesn’t help. My mind wonders back to him and his imminent departure to New Zealand, to his new life in Auckland, which suddenly seems further than Pluto. A cold hand grabs my heart, squeezes mercilessly, threatening to crush it, my throat tightens, vision blurs. I only come to my senses when I feel tears wetting the hand which is turning the screwdriver aimlessly, on auto pilot. Before he notices I run to the bathroom or some other corner to regain my composure and put a labored smile back on. I don’t want him to see me crying, to make it harder on him with my sorrows.
The last few days as the farewell nears we don’t talk about him leaving, we keep doing everything as normal, as if he is to stay. We watch “That 70s Show”, we cook and laugh and talk about fixing the crooked shelf with all the glass in it, he does his shifts washing dishes, he jokingly argues with Azra about the smallest things, and it remains so, as if the rupture is not approaching, until the moment we put on our shoes to leave to the airport.
At the airport everything happens in a flash, the check in, the baggage drop, minutes are dissolving like nanoseconds and sooner than we entered the ugly, bustling building of Newark International Airport we’re standing at the mouth of a huge line funneling people towards the security check.
We hug, I hold on to him longer than I should, can’t let go, keep telling him pathetic, unnecessary stuff like how I will always be there even if not in person, that I am a call, a text away should he need anything, anything, any time day or night, anything, he looks at me lovingly, his eyes soothe me into coherence, take good care of Salih he says as our embrace breaks off and he enters the mammoth queue of travelers, I walk up and down parallel to him, United Airlines-themed tape separating us, I keep talking about little things he needs to remember, make sure you have no liquids in the rucksack, he nods, gets further and further away, people are now filling the distance between us, I watch him, desperate for him to turn around so I can mouth one more I love you, make sure you take your laptop out, he looks back, make sure you take, the stream of people takes him towards the conveyor belt feeding one of the metal detectors, he is emptying his pockets into a plastic tray, turns around before passing through the machine, sine, I yell out, make sure you, he is on the other side, people are blocking my view, I crane my neck to I see him, he is looking for me, I wave frantically, sine, I am here, he sees me, waves, his eyes glistening I love you, I am waving, I love you son, I love you so much, make sure you, I watch him through the fog of tears streaming down my face, I watch him turn around one last time, I love you dad, I watch him, wiping tears to focus, I lose him for a moment before I catch a glimpse of his broad back again, I see him, I watch my son go into a new life tall, beautiful, perfect, new souls awaiting to be touched and mended, I watch him, I watch him disappear into the crowd taking my heart with him.