Spending my fourth year abroad, I haven’t really anticipated that homesickness would still startle me like an afternoon downpour on this sodden land. When one immerses in the sense of novelty sprinkled with unfamiliar routine and surroundings, a delusion of oneself being footloose and fancy-free often arise subsequently. At this time of our life when rebelliousness and composure to any emotion fluctuations are lauded as symbols of independence, it takes a certain degree of audacity to confess that you miss your parents your siblings the bygone friends that palatable smell of dinner drifting from the kitchen at six thirty and even the itsy-bitsy shelter in our suffocating concrete forest …
These fragments of subconscious recollections eventually got your mind snarled up in the middle of the night when you have nowhere to hide and no means to dismiss them as futile pettiness. Accompanying in the background are faint noises of passing cars, overly luminous street lights and the occasional echoes of high heels knocking against concrete pavement. All of these trivia are almost identical with those you sensed in your bedroom but you also realise better than anyone else that when you open the door, you will only find yourself alone in a cold, empty corridor, with other individuals curling up in their isolated cubicles, dreaming the same dream.
The night before departure is always a fierce struggle between you and your luggage, and this battle often involves not only you, but your entire family. Before I shoved my duvet into the vacuum bag, my mom proposed to put the duvet cover on, so that it saves time for me to do this on my own and ‘I can go to sleep as soon as possible on my first night’. I nodded and continued packing while she brought the bulky duvet back to the bedroom and started tying the knots that secure the cover. One by one, she eventually got the duvet cover in place and together we pushed the enormously airy duvet into the bag, enjoying the magical moment as it shrank into a small lump with the howling of our vacuum cleaner. The first night in London was tranquil and warm as I cuddled under the duvet, revelling in the familiar aroma of washing powder.
As the scent faded away day after day and as I began to immerse in the life in this buzzing city, it came the time when I realised that my first laundry must be done soon. Turning on Spotify on my phone, I casually unzipped the duvet cover and began to untie the knots, before an outbreak of heartache hit me without any prior notice. The memory of my mom bending her back, tying up these knots under dim light was still vivid, I stopped as I progressed slowly in untying these unexpectedly tight knots. I could imagine the other pair of hands performing exactly the same action in reverse order, I could almost feel the remaining heat from her fingertips. For the subsequent years in my life, I may only have the luxury of touching these hands for two or three months a year. What was she thinking when she realised again that I am leaving for another three fourth of a year, that there would be no one to accompany her when dad was working overtime? While we are lamenting about the predicament and struggle of a long-distance relationship, it almost never occurred to us that the separation of bloodline can pierce just as deep.
When the last string was detached from the knot, I stared at the duvet as it was lying quietly on my bed, and that was after half an hour.