Updated: May 20
As Aria walked into the kitchen smelling the mouth-watering aromas of her mother's homemade pasta bake, she suddenly wanted to carry on with last night's conversation which became too heated, and as Aria’s mother said ‘too petty’ to be continued.
‘Mom, I’ve thought of this long and hard, I’m moving to San Diego! Life is too short....’
‘Sure Aria, but you need to also remember, like you said, life is too short. It also means you might regret not spending it with the right people. Your father is really frail and it puts a smile on his face when he sees you every morning.’
Aria’s mother was trying to guilt-trip her, but Aria knew better – her mother had been using this trick for decades, that was exactly how she gave up on her dream of studying fashion. She was not going to let history repeat itself.
‘Also, what about Philip?’
Aria froze and thought her mother was really desperate this time, bringing Philip into the equation. Little did she know, Aria was trying to escape Philip. In fact, he is one of the main reasons she wants to leave – she simply cannot tolerate living in her past anymore.
'I've booked the flight tickets last night mom .....'
As Aria muttered these words, a wave of guilt ran through every cell of her body. Her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 18-years old and the news turned the family from a big happy bubble to a sandglass counting down his last days of life. It is the mere thought of leaving them behind to battle the disease by themselves that left Aria numb. Although her sister is loving, she is going through her own issues and hardly ever visits the family, she tends to put her head in the sand when her father needs any help while Aria and her mother are at work.
Aria's mother looked at her and tears started building up in her eyes, she realised her daughter needed an escape, she had gone through a lot in the past year and it hasn't been easy. She has cried endlessly, thinking her parents couldn’t hear her. No matter how much she tried to tell Aria how this too shall pass, and that the most important thing she has is her health, Aria could not help but feel low. After all, she was left all alone to call every guest and tell them that the wedding will no longer happen, simply because the groom changed his mind and stopped talking to her. The only time she actually shed tears in front of her mother was when she had to collect her wedding dress. Her mother’s heart ached for her and empathises with her, despite the battles she is going through with her own husband’s health.
‘My dear Aria, you have every right in this world to explore your desires. Just know that your sister, father and I love you so much and we will miss you when you are gone. But you are right, you should explore the world as you please, because there will come a day when you can’t.’
Aria hugged her mom, she knew deep down in her heart she was making a selfish decision, but it was the first selfish decision she ever made. She has lost who she thought was her life partner for reasons unexplained, just like she lost Ethos years before. She used to seek romance, she used to look forward to holding a man’s hand, but now she avoids the topic like the plague. She is focusing on her growth and searching for meaning in her life. Romance and partners bring drama and heartache, self-love brings fulfillment. She knew she was doing the right thing.
Her flight takes off in a week – she had very little time to spend with her father but she tried to push that thought out of her mind. He developed difficulty in swallowing a few months ago and his whole diet had to change to mashed food. She was the one who would care for him in the morning every day before she would head to work, bring him to the kitchen, prepare his favourite porridge with mashed bananas on the side, give him his medications and feed him while playing his favourite vocal jazz music in the background, mostly Frank Sinatra. During his hospital stay the idea of doing this broke her heart, after all, her father was one of the most active people she knew, he would exercise before and after work. Little did she know, this bonding time would actually become her favourite routine.
‘You don’t feel sorry for me, do you, kiddo?’
‘Come on dad, you know I don’t.’
‘You better not, I’d kick your ass if you did.’
He would say that at least once a week. Their relationship was so incredibly serious deep down, but from an observer’s perspective one wouldn’t think they were a parent and a child. Most of the time they’d jokingly curse at each other. Aria’s father taught her a lot of things in life, how to ride a bike, how to fight bullies, how to make an omelette, but most importantly, how to laugh life right in the face. Aria loved her parents just the same, but she had a special undeniable bond with her dad since she was a little girl.
‘Dad, I’m leaving to San Diego next week….’
‘You’re not the only person that can mash a banana in this country, we don’t need you here, get out there and discover your purpose.’
When Ethos left, Aria went through turbulent times, she shut everyone out and it affected her friendships irreversibly. She tried to get things back to how they were but to no avail. She managed to continue seeing them occasionally but it didn’t feel the same. It was clear that she was an outsider at that point. Sadly, her father’s illness took so much of her time that she couldn’t spend time repairing her past mistakes. It became evident to her that the friendships were irreparable when they didn’t attempt to comfort her when she broke the news about canceling the wedding. Her father on the other hand knew exactly what to say, even when she told him she won’t be wearing that white dress this summer.
‘True friends are like diamonds kiddo – you can wash your hands while you’re wearing them every day and they’ll still last forever. Fake friends are like copper, tarnish and corrode with time. If you ask me, this Philip is copper.’
What Aria wasn’t disclosing to her parents to save them the endless anxiety is that she wasn’t sure if she was staying in San Diego. She saved some money to explore the state and hoped to enjoy a particular city or a town, find a job that she enjoyed and take it from there. For the first time in her life, Aria didn’t have a long term plan. Every long-term plan she had come up with so far had miserably fallen apart even when it seemed failsafe. Her career, her relationships, and her friendships, hence she logically came to the conclusion that no plan is indeed the best plan there is.
She packed two pairs of shorts, three dresses, five tops, and two sweaters. She loves running so she packed all of her running gear; she then suddenly started panicking. What if I run out of money? What if I get ill out there? What if dad gets worse? What if mom gets ill? What if Sophie gets in trouble again? As usual, there was only one person she could turn to for advice.
‘You get ill? We’ll ship you home, you run out of money? We’ll buy your tickets to get home. I will be fine; your mom will be fine and your sister will most certainly be fine. Just go kid, you’re missing out on your life with all these endless, futile, thoughts’.
As her cab to the airport was a minute away, she fought back every tear, she knew her tears might break her father’s heart. She hugged her parents tight and they wished her luck, with this, her new life journey began.
Aria got excited about the idea of independence, as much as she was already missing her family, she was also immensely excited about her trip. She may stay there, she may come back, she may end up in a different state, or a different country altogether. The possibilities were endless and she wanted to jump with joy, albeit with the lingering dark cloud in the background about missing her family. Her first stop was going to be San Francisco – she planned on telling her family while she was facing the Golden Gate Bridge. She knew this would make her dad proud, afterall, that is where he met her mom during their hippie years.
As she found her seat on the airplane, she couldn’t help but think she had known the man sat next to her from somewhere. As she attempted to speak to him, he smiled softly making her blush – a feeling she thought was forever dead.