What They Don’t Tell You About Leaving

Photo by Resi Kling on Unsplash

1. It is too easy. Sometimes it falls into your hands so that you don’t even notice. You accept a ring, set a date, and hire a wedding planner who guides you in the do’s and don’ts of addressing invitations. Your fiancé’s mother finds you an office job that will take care of your work visa. You future in-laws have a spare room you can stay in until the wedding. Your friends sign leases to cruddy apartments in Allston, and you are shuffled out of the housing pool and road trips to Maine as you pack your things. Rather than deciding who will get stuck with the small bedroom with the dumpster view, you are practicing your Spanish on Duolingo and scouring Craigslist for free suitcases. You have a plane ticket you didn’t buy. It says this: Clase Ejecutiva /8:15/ JUL 15/Puerta 23/ BOS to SAL/ 2A. It is like poetry, with its short lines and no return.

2. Heading off to a new and exciting life is less exciting when you are happy with your current non-exciting life. You begin giving away your belongings two months before your scheduled departure. Your roommate says, looking at the boxes in the living room, that it feels as if you’ve died. You memorize all of your friends’ faces and wonder when you’ll see them again. There’s always the wedding, they tell you. On your last night, you cry into your IPA and say, I’m just so happy, really, but no one believes you.

3. It is quiet. First, in the way that you fumble through the Salvadoran newspaper each morning. And then, in the constant game of charades that comes with the language barrier. Your fiancé is working working working, traffic in the city adds another hour each way, and so he is not around to translate how you take your coffee, or that story about your terrible oboe solo you just know his mother would love, or how exactly you want the wedding dress altered. It is quiet in the thought of how sublime it is to live in a city that rests on the side of a volcano.

4. It is loud. In the morning, it is the singing of the torogoces. Your fiancé’s mother tells you that they are tiger birds. You wonder if something is lost in translation, as to you, they look more like feathered maracas than tigers. In the afternoons, it is the children. You are suddenly an aunt, with nephews you hardly understand, but who say Tia Julia, como se dice olas en Ingles? Or even Tia Julia, ayudame. It is loud in the thought of how brash it is to live in a city that stands on the side of a volcano.

5. It is hard. That you cry every time your fiancé explains what is and what is not appropriate dinner conversation in his culture. You cry, not because you feel patronized, but because you are embarrassed, your new emotional default. You wish you could sail through conversations like you used to in the States. There, at least, you knew your anchors. There, at least, you could read people. Here, you skid across conversations like an out of control jet ski.

6. You will need to make lists. You will have list what fits in your suitcase and what does not. Favorite mug your ex gave you one valentine’s day? Yes. Samurai sword umbrella from your cousin? No. High school yearbooks? Definitely not. You are amazed at how things accumulate over the years. You are even more amazed at what you decide has value and what does not. You are the most amazed when you actually manage to pack twenty-four years into two bags. You are amazed at how light leaving can be.

7. It is big. You have three times as many brothers as before. Even your name is bigger. It is big, like your SUV, the one you call “The Spaceship,” the one with the tinted windows your fiancé bought so that you would feel safe driving along with the buses and the pick-up trucks in rush hour, so that others can’t see the chelita driving inside. You think San Salvador must hold the record for round-a-bouts. You think the city is built on circles, circles you can’t seem to edge your way into. It is big like the first time you order for yourself at a restaurant. It is big like the love that would drive a person to leave everything. It is big like realizing you will be okay.

Check out my debut novel: Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships, out November 23rd, 2021 with Berkley Romance. Learn More at sarahruizwrites.com

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