I Write to Know the Life I Never Had

I’ve spent all my life sitting in planes on tarmacs. I sit curled to the side so my legs fit comfortably. Still my back hurts against the stiff seat cushions and I lean sideways as to not crowd my sister. The plastic wall of the plane is cold against my face. Blocking out the chatter of my sisters, brother, and parents, I gaze out the window and let my mind wander. I’m going to miss my friends and my school. But, I guess my school was never that great, especially the teachers. But, there was that one teacher. What was his name? Oh, I don’t remember. What about the house? I had a lot of fun there. But, I also couldn’t paint the walls or hang up my posters. That would’ve gotten momma into trouble. “It’s not our home,” she’d explain. I guess I’ll never have a home. I will miss my friends though. Will I ever see these people or this place again? Tears well up in my eyes but I refuse to let them fall. I force the looming question out of my mind. I’ve never been good at goodbyes. You’d think after years of moving around I’d get used to them, but I usually just detach my emotions and pretend it isn’t happening. I guess that’s just the life of someone who always leaves. Never left, always leaving.

I watch as other planes taxi out onto the runway and start down the thin strip of black. Though in actuality it’s huge, the runway never seems big enough to bear the burden of all these people. Day after day, people pile into these flying contraptions with this illusion in their minds that the blue sky above us promises something better than what they’ve got. Everybody is either running to or from something. Then there’s me, who’s just wandering aimlessly. I don’t want something better or new. I just want something normal.

The captain’s voice comes over the PA system and flight attendants spread up and down the aisle. I know we are supposed to pay attention to the safety announcements but I always ignore them. I’ve been flying since I was a baby. I could recite this in my sleep. I reach into the front-seat pocket and pull out Skymall Magazine. These things are such crap. Still, I flip through the pages hoping to find a crossword puzzle. Toward the very back, I find a page of Sudoku. I guess this’ll work. I pull a short, yellow pencil out of my pocket and start to scribble in numbers. I finish before we even back out and start in the direction of the runway.

I know that if I don’t find something to do before we take off, I’ll have to wait until we reach cruising altitude before I can get my bag out. Reaching into the purse underneath my feet, I shuffle through my things. I find a notebook that I brought to do schoolwork. All my assignments are in my bag in the compartment above me.

“Ma’am, you need to put your bag back underneath the seat and sit up,” a flight attendant says as she passes me.

In a haste, I grab the notebook and kick my bag back to where it was. I open the notebook and stare at the blue lines running across it. Though I write often, my mind struggles to find something to write about. I don’t want to write about my friends or leaving or the place I’m going to. I don’t want to write about my life because, frankly, I don’t like it. Without thinking, I begin scribbling words on the first line. A slight smile creeps onto my face, despite my bleary eyes. Before I know it, I’m flipping to the next page to continue writing, and the next page, and the next page.

I write to know the life I’ve never had—a life of stability and family. I write of a life where I live in one place with my grandparents down the street. I play with my cousins on the weekends. I have dinner at home every night. Home. I dream of a place where I can paint the walls blue with a mural of books and music, a place where I can hang up my posters without worrying about the holes the tacks will make. I imagine falling in love with the boy I met in kindergarten and my best friends living next door to me my whole life. I imagine this world I always saw but never knew, the world I could never get to.

This anecdote was written from the perspective of my younger self.

While I have grown to appreciate the life I had thanks to the military, I still find this idea of a home to be a large inspiration in my writing. I find my stories exploring different definitions of home and different circumstances leading to a lack of home. My stories explore the emotional impact of losing a home or never having one. I am obsessed with the idea that I may, one day, have a home too—even if only in my stories.

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