Immigration creates distance, forcing us to separate. The separation becomes a part of everyday living, and we learn not just to cope, but to also live it, learn it, and breathe it until it becomes habit. There is the weight of separation that becomes another skin layer, along with wounds, scars and tears. It’s like seeing your father cry when he loses his brother, or your mother when she becomes a grandmother for the first time and she is vulnerable for once. These are moments when you realize how fragile everyone can be, how vulnerable to loss, to separation of mother and daughter as the latter takes the new role.
All the distances and separations have weighed me down over the years. My cousin Sasha left for a few years to Albania when we were around the age of six. We were inseparable, and I remember the anxiety I felt, for she was the first person to have ever left. I imagined her in the war-torn country, and missed her even though we sent each other letters often. The fear of her not returning, or of our relationship changing were the root of anxiety, and as I would learn later, the root for most forms of anxiety.
Later, the separations became a constant in my life. They, along with the distances made me grow up faster, made me vulnerable and yet strong. Vulnerable to the weight, strong to my coping and self-defense mechanisms.
The heaviest weight, one I still continue to feel at moments, was my father leaving. The distance was a lot, especially for a child, and phone calls hardly sufficed. Our home became sad when he left for the States, but to a greater degree for me as I suffered through and cried incessantly. The weight of his leaving, and the weight of having to grow up have made me who I am now.
I am now living alone in a city not too far from my family. We have managed the two different states with my infrequent bus trips from New York to Virginia. New York at times eats me up with the weight of loneliness, and the old pains of separation still gnaw at me. My therapist says I carry an old sadness every time I begin crying. This old sadness weighs more than I can bare at times. It takes me underground as I take the subway each day. It follows me as I work, as I eat, and sleep and walk. I hide it sometimes, I push it aside, I pretend it is not there and I imagine I am completely free until it comes back in a giant wave and knocks me sideways.
The old sadness taints my presence. Living in the moment with the constant fear of that moment ending makes living a harder task. It's like being with a lover and wanting to hold onto each moment as the two of you are tangled together, your weights combined, with no separations. It's wanting to hold his fingers around yours, to fill in any gap by wrapping your bodies around each other, and not parting from the moment, the togetherness, the perfect bonding. It's wanting to hold on to his smell.
And yet life continues, even with the distances, even with the separations, it continues as we struggle to find our ways through them. Memories of separation, like a father and brother leaving, a cousin leaving, an uncle dying, a house being sold, a country being forgotten, a best friend leaving, and on and on and on...