It was 1990 when I met them. I was going around my everyday routine, having lunch by the river. Oh the view was great! I never lost my appetite whenever I sat by that stretch of cerulean water in front of me. The leaves would sway with the rhythm of the wind and I could hear the water flowing with it. It was my personal paradise…during lunch. Whenever I finish my lunch, usually composed of local pastries from the town’s bakeshop and my mom’s kolduny, I would walk back to my house. It was a long walk from the river but it was the only time I can think without any distractions.
As I walk along this rocky path back to our town, thinking of what I should do next week, I bumped to this man. “Oh, hello there! ” He smiled at me and his eyes were roaming around the trees. He was holding a Polaroid camera, clicking the shutter button whenever he sees something that amazes him. I smiled back at him. “Are you a local here? ” He asked and suddenly snapped a picture of me. I nodded and smiled back. It was the only thing I can do. Here he was, a foreigner, talking to me and ruining my everyday routine.
It was okay…it was something new that broke me apart from a monotonous life. “I was wondering if you could tour us around your town? My family and I are spending a few weeks here in Poland. I think we chose a great town. This place is great! ” The man never stopped talking. I glanced at his back and I saw his family. They were a cheerful bunch at first glance and I believe I had the right impression on them. I became their personal tour guide the following weeks. The father was a great man. With his loud and energetic laugh, I knew that they lived a nice life.
The mother was almost the same as her husband. She had this unique laugh where you will also want to laugh. Their kids were a silent bunch…but I guess anyone would act like that if they were always facing a group of strangers. But these kids were really fun to be with if you get to know them. The younger one was a timid little boy but if you get to talk to him and warmed up to him, he would tell you stories about their life in the United States. It was one of my favourite part of their visit, the stories of that little kid. It made me imagine what the United States looked like.
I pictured the buildings at the city, the lights of billboards flashing in front of your eyes, the noise of car horns and drivers shouting at each other. I could also picture the people in the city, bustling about living the busy life. Men and women in suits walking at the sidewalk, looking at their watches. Yellow cabs stuck in traffic. I could always picture the busy life in America. The day they were going back to their country, I accompanied them at the airport. The past few weeks were a breather from my usual life and I was very grateful to them.
“When you can, you can go to the United States and we will be there for you, okay? ” He smiled again. I nodded and waved goodbye to them. Five years later, I got a call from the same American family. They were inviting me over. My dream to see the American city came rushing back to me. I accepted their offer and called the airport. I immediately bought a ticket going to the United States. My flight was scheduled two days after their call. That night, I couldn’t sleep. I turned from side to side, I even drank milk because I remember people say it helps you sleep. But it didn’t work.
All I could think about was my trip. I could imagine myself riding that plane, seeing the clouds and the sun…and soon seeing the lights of the city. As I was thinking of what would happen tomorrow, I never noticed that I fell asleep. The next thing I know, my brother was waking me up. “Wake up! You’ll be late and you’ll miss your flight if you don’t get up NOW! ” I looked at my watch. The drive from our house to the airport was almost 4 hours…if I don’t go now, I might miss my flight! I took a bath, grabbed my stuff and jumped in the car. I looked at our town as we passed every building.
I smiled at the memory behind those concrete walls, those trees along the way, and the people waving goodbye to me. I looked at the road, smiling at the view of Poland I grew up. This may be goodbye to the country I was born. As I was admiring the scenery, I felt a sudden halt. It was my brother’s car. It broke down in the middle of the road. I immediately checked my watch and found out that I am two hours away from my scheduled flight. If we stay any longer, I will definitely miss my flight. There was no one around but fortunately, my brother had a spare tire in his trunk.
After all, it was only a problem on one tire. I was restless. I immediately went out of the car and helped my brother change his tire. As I was handing him tools he needed, I couldn’t help but check my watch. All I could think about was missing my flight and waiting another day to get to the United States. When I heard the car roar back to life, I actually laughed and patted my brother at the back. He knew we had the chance to be on time and so, he drove the car as fast as he could while assuring me that we will arrive on time. I felt my heart was beating fast.
I felt uneasy because of the uncertainty of what will happen when I arrive in the airport and when I arrive in the United States. My thoughts of the American city, the bustling life of United States, all of those were rushing in my head. I felt a sweat trickle down my forehead and I wiped it off away. My heart was beating faster as we got closer to the airport. “Here we are! And we are just on time… come on let’s go get your luggage. ” I heard my brother laughing as he went out of the car. I stared at the huge building of the airport. I felt my heart slowing down as I walked into the building with my brother. United States, here I come!