This story is by Tracy Busse and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Mama, who is me?”
“You is you baby.”
I smiled as I watched a mother of four small children respond to her five-year-old daughter dressed in a hot pink jogging suit. Her rebellious curls matched the curiosity of this provocative question.
“But Mama! Who is me?”
The baby in the mother’s arms let out a scream. The little philosopher rolled her eyes and sat on her hello kitty suitcase with the flair of a budding drama queen.
Her mother raised one eyebrow and the little girl sat a little straighter.
I smiled at the exchange. Even while waiting to board a plane my dilemma stared at me with the face of innocence and hope. Who am I indeed?
My mama used to say that I dreamed too big and that I needed to appreciate the simpler things in life. If I get on that plane I’ll be agreeing with her.
“Attention: Passengers of flight 1254 we will begin the boarding process in thirty minutes.”
“Afraid to fly?” A middle-aged woman across from me asks.
“Not really, I’m just not sure if I should be getting on that plane.”
She smiles and cocks her head, “I bet if you start to breathe you’ll feel a little better.”
I nod as the warmth of pink colors my cheeks. In one moment a complete stranger saw my anxiety and fear. If I get on that plane I will never be seen again. I will blend into the landscape of small-town living. I will be put into a mold with no hope of release. My mind wanders to the day I left.
“Rachel please don’t leave you just got back. When is it going to be enough?”
“Mama if I stay in this town I will die!”
“We all have to die somewhere. Ain’t nothing wrong with Woodford.”
Tears filled my eyes, “It’s all wrong for me.”
“You know Jimmy wants to marry you. He’s got a good job at the Distillery. You could have a good life with him.” My mama’s hand caressed my cheek. Like any mother, she wants what she thinks is best.
“It would be good, but something in my heart tells me that I was created for something great. Something different. I have to go. I love you, Mama.”
That was the last time I saw her. The last time we touched and the last time we didn’t meet each other’s expectations. Well at least while we were both living.
“Excuse me, I think you dropped your ticket.”
I looked up at the mother of four who pointed her nose toward my fallen ticket. “Thank you, ma’am”
“No need in calling me ma’am, us ladies need to stick together.” Her eyes sparkled with kindness, “are you headed home?”
Home. What is a home really? My dad left before I could know him. Mom raised me by herself in a rickety, one bedroom hovel that sits on 1/8 of an acre of land in a town that lives a decade behind the rest of the world.
I looked up at the kind woman “Not sure if I have a home.”
“Just visiting then?”
She nodded thoughtfully and looked at each of her children. “We all carry pieces of home in us and outside of us.” She chuckled, “These rascals are my life! It doesn’t really matter where we land. As long as we are all together I know that I am home.”
I smiled and looked down at the ticket in my hand. I wondered if she knew what it felt like to not have anyone to belong to but you. I looked up at the flight monitor, fifteen minutes till we board. I took a deep breath while glancing at the woman across from me. The weight of my decision seemed to gain ten pounds a minute. Why is this so hard? Who am I disappointing if I go? Who am I pleasing if I stay?
“Rachel you can’t leave, things are just starting to take off.” I’ll never forget how Elijah looked at me that night. He really loved me.
“I’m just afraid that I’m disappointing her. This isn’t the life she wanted for me.”
“Hey,” He reached his arms around my waist and put his forehead to mine. “ I don’t want to sound cold but she’s dead. You can’t disappoint her anymore”
Deep breath in. “You don’t get it. She never saw me living in the city, singing at bars while trying to get through school. I was supposed to get married and have lots of babies.”
“You are more than a baby making factory. You have so much to give.”
God, I loved him. A tear rolled down my cheek as grief flooded my body. I glanced around the terminal to see if I remained invisible to the world around me. Elijah. Gone. Mom. Gone. My people are gone. In fifteen minutes I’ll be boarding a plane to nowhere. My eyes clench shut. If I squeeze hard enough maybe they will transport me to another world.
“Attention passengers, would Rachel Dirk please come to the front desk?”
What on earth would they want me for?
As I approached the desk I wondered if they would give me an out.
“Yes, that’s me.”
“This is a bit unusual but we have a note here from your fiancé.”
“My Fiancé?” What the hell! How could they have a note from my Fiancé? “I’m sorry that’s not possible.”
The flight attendant shrugged his shoulders and handed me a white business envelope. I snatched it and strode to the windows. Scanning the room all I felt was confusion. When did Elijah do this? The accident was over a week ago. Maybe he’s not really dead. Did I imagine the whole thing? Maybe it’s a letter telling me he’s still alive, he embezzled some money, and now he’s in hiding. I could hear his voice in my head saying, “Babe, you know that’s not my style.” Every bit of me trembled as I slipped a finger under the flap. I pulled out a note on computer paper. It’s his handwriting. I slid my back against the window and wilted to the floor.
I know what you are thinking, “How did that crazy bastard get Delta to give me a letter in the terminal.” Ha! You know I have my ways! Listen, love, I know you are confused about who you are and where you should be in this world, but let me help you out. Your true home is not in an empty house in Kentucky, nor is it living in my sad excuse for an apartment. What you call home is so much more about who you have been created to be. Home is about how you find belonging within yourself. Every step you take in this world declares your presence. Once you embrace who you are everyone else will be blown away! Everyone that sees you gets a glimpse of eternity. I am blessed to say that you introduced me to a side of heaven I had never known before. Whether you marry me, move to Kentucky, or find another path I only ask that you live out of your center, your true self, which is your home.
I Love you Babe!
All I could think to do was smash my face into the paper. I wanted to be where his hands had been. He must have written this right before…
“You know Mama says we shouldn’t hide our face. Mama says our face reveals our glory.”
I slide the letter off my face and press it into my heart. Before me stands the little philosopher.
“My mama also says its good to cry when we have big feelings.” A partially toothless grin meets my tear soaked gaze.
“Your Mama is a wise woman,” I reply
“Brittany you leave that woman alone it’s time to board the plane!”
“Yes Ma’am!” Brittany turns to me, “You coming?”
Thank you, Lord for little angels. “You go on with your Mama, this glory has other places to be,” I smile and point at my face. Brittany beams and skips towards her mama. I think of her earlier question, ‘Who is me?’
I am so much more than where I live and who is still living in my life. I am the only me on this earth. I am called to a life bigger than I can imagine. I am who I am.
“Attention passengers this is the final boarding call for flight 1254…”
It’s time. Standing up I leave. I leave to be me.