As exhausting as our trip was, and at times terrifying, I did not want it to end. I was set to return to Canada the day after we got back from Malaysia. And this time, for good.
Last year I was so certain that it was time for me to leave Shanghai. But now that it’s finally here, I wasn’t so sure anymore. Where else could I live like an Arabic prince on a school teacher’s salary? What other cities in the world would I be considered special simply because I spoke English? Here I’m ABB (Asian but Better). In Canada, I’m just an A, and not even the exotic kind, like Japanese. There’s a reason nobody goes to Chinatown in Toronto because the entire city is Chinatown.
There’s also the fact that I’m leaving behind the love of my life. Who knows when I’ll get to see Johan again. Maybe in a year. Maybe never. A lot could happen in a year. I was seriously starting to regret my choices in life. The only thing that’s stopping me from canceling the flight was my even bigger fear of calling customer service.
Having never been good at goodbyes, I tried to distract myself by thinking about anything but the inevitable.
“What do you want to eat?” I asked Johan once we landed in Pudong airport.
“I’m not very hungry right now.” He answered, barely able to keep his eye open.
Fair enough, we have been in transit for more than 12 hours.
“Pistolera should be open soon.” I brought it up again once we were in a taxi.
“I don’t know if I can handle Mexican food this early.”
“Well, we could just order in from Sherpas.” I was nothing if not considerate.
“Let’s take a nap first then decide?” He smiled and squeezed my hand. Translation: please shut up.
“Ok.” I agreed begrudgingly.
Johan fell into bed the minute we got into the apartment. I laid down next to him and he wrapped me in a warm embrace.
“You know…” I whispered after a few minutes. “I could just pop down to Family Mart and grab those curry fish balls you like so much.”
Did I say you? I meant me. I turned to face Johan, but he was already asleep.
Ok, nap first but then we REALLY need to replenish our nutrients. I closed my eyes and dreamed of tacos and carrot cake.
When I opened my eyes, the sun had already started to set. Johan was sleeping like a baby, so I didn’t have the heart to wake him up. Ok, another half hour, then it’ll be dinner time. That means I could eat two meals in one. Chicken or steak? Both, please!
When I woke up again I felt groggy and disoriented. I must have been more tired than I thought.
“Chicken Fajitas…” I mumbled incoherently.
“What?” Johan asked, coming out of the bathroom.
“I said… What do you want for dinner?” I repeated myself.
“Hon…” He replied, “It’s 10am…”
I hated when he called me “hon”. That’s what elderly ladies say. Any other terms of endearment will do, “Babe”, “Darling”, “Xena Warrior Princess”…
“Wait…what?” I jumped up from the bed. Because if it’s the next morning that means…I’m leaving for the airport in… one hour!
“You were sleeping so soundly I didn’t have the heart to wake you.” Johan walked over and wrapped his arms around me. “I can’t believe you are leaving already…”
“No time to talk!” I broke from his embrace. “I need to finish packing!” It was unlike me to leave packing until the last minute, but I assumed we’d have yesterday as well.
Panic packing turned out to be the perfect distraction. If I thought about leaving Johan, I would surely start crying. I have nothing against crying. In fact, I love crying. Sometimes I put on sad music and cry just because it’s Tuesday.
The problem is, once I start crying, I simply can’t stop! And I don’t cry like a Disney princess, who shed exactly 3 teardrops and look more radiant than before. No, I cry like SpongeBob Square Pants. Ugly, snotty and explosive. Which make sense for him since he’s a sponge that lives underwater. But it’s just not how I want to spend our last moments together.
Soon enough I hear a loud knocking on the door. It was to inform me that my ride to the airport was here. So Johan and I lugged my suitcases into the elevator and went downstairs.
There was a lot of stuff between my coworkers and me, but thanks to the skills of our driver we were able to squeeze it all in. Soon there was nothing left to do but say goodbye.
Everyone got into the taxi and it became just the two of us. I could feel the pressure rising up in my throat. Uh oh SpongeBob.
“Ok, bye!” I gave Johan a quick hug and tried to get in the taxi.
“Wait…” He grabbed my hand, not willing to let me leave like this.
He looked into my eyes with his big puppy dog eyes and said “I’m gonna miss you.” and then he kissed me.
Oh boy… Here come the waterworks….Any minute now.
Eventually, I managed to stop thinking and relaxed into his arms. When we finally broke apart, I looked into Johan’s face one last time. All I could remember was that he looked sad. And I finally allowed myself to feel sad too.
“I’m gonna miss you too.” I murmured as my eyes well up.
“Goodbye….” He let go of my hand.
See you next time.