The changeover at Hamad International was a uniquely stressful experience. By the time we stepped off the plane after eleven the other night, I had already been flying for nine hours — undisputedly the longest period of time I had ever spent in the air. And none of it had prepared me for the dash from arrivals to transfer security and the completely chaotic queuing system there, which seemed to involve everyone just doing what they want, and to hell with what I had come to understand as globally recognised queue etiquette (poor Stu had a nice older man stop and ask if he could step in front, which Stu interpreted as wanting to move through instead). Given that we only had an hour to move from one plane to the next, I spent most of the time five to tears, trying to understand how an experience like this happened at a world class airport. Which is a bit rich of me since didn’t a group of homies make off with millions of rands from OR Tambo International? Yes. Let me be silent then.
Admittedly, I was a bit disconcerted, I suppose, to hop off the plane and hear something along the lines of “what the poes do we do next?” from a group of men next to me. I guess you don’t travel halfway across the world expecting to hear your favourite word on the other side, but if there is a shining moment about my time spent in Doha, it is definitely looking up, and feeling warm to my toes at the sight of people from my world, from my home, who speak my language.
I thought it would be a difficult thing, being my first international, long-haul flight and all, but the slow release Xanax I dropped before I checked into security really took the edge off my anxiety, which had been doing the absolute most for two weeks, despite my best attempts to inform it that it was now far too late to be acting up because I have been been leaving.
For the last few days in South Africa, I’d been talking about leaving to anyone who would listen. It was, incontrovertibly, the right thing to do. Yes it was chaotic, and yes there are a lot of implications to the decision that I’m sure I’ll think about one at a time, when I’m ready. But it was the right thing to do. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I showed up ready for change. Ready for something different. Ready to turn my life upside down and experiment while I am turning it back again. Just ready. Thrilled. Somewhat trembly. But in a good way. There has never been anything wrong with the idea of leaving — I’ve basically rushed up to it and kissed it on the mouth.
It’s departure I struggle with. Leaving’s physical manifestation. Ultimately, the idea is to move to Scotland on a more or less permanent basis for a little while. Anyone who has ever moved knows that moving just a suburb away is stressful (as my sister reminded me when I was sitting opposite her on her bed, searching for some much-needed guidance) — moving continents, half a world away? Stressful probably doesn’t begin to cover it. To make matters worse, I am historically bad at goodbyes. (Confession: the goodbye at the airport with my family felt more like tearful encouragement than a “don’t go” moment, though that could have been the Xanax kicking in.) Goodbyes stop my breath in my chest and root my feet to the floor. I remember tearing up alone in the airport when Stu left for a two-week holiday in the city I’m currently sitting in. I still haven’t said goodbye to my uncle, even when he bid us his last, fond farewell and went to join the spirit in the sky. I am not good with leaving outside of its concept.
Luckily, I was distracted by the fact that the weight distribution of our bags was fucked and we had to unzip, unpack and rejig bags we had not only spent a considerable amount of effort closing, but which were also already wrapped in plastic. Fantastic. I promise.
I have no idea what I expected from Edinburgh. I knew the flight was going to be long. I knew that the weather was going to be cold and that every single house and cobblestone in this city is old as fuck. For the rest of it, I had only the half-baked but incredibly detailed fantasies cooked up in my overactive imagination. I’m not sure what to tell you about the reality. I’ve been here for a few days and all I’ve done is drink stupendous amounts of tea, try and adjust to the biting spring cold (in Cape Town, there are only two seasons — winter and summer — and you can experience them both several times on any given day, so spring is an unfamiliar concept to me) and observe the unfamiliarity of white people in their own world, where the requirements for everything are different. My brother mentioned I’m on their land now, but these homies better come correct or I’m taking every grain of sand and stone for my own.
There’s the urge to say that a part of me thought this would all be harder. In reality though, I have only been here for three days and away from home for the same amount of time. My dad didn’t fail to remind me that I am bad at being away from home — as a child, I would inevitably get homesick in a very physical sense, seldom slept out at friends because it would always result in a late-night, tearful phone call to one of my parents and generally responded badly to any location outside of my comfort zone. I can mostly confidently say that I’ve grown out of that (I mean I moved out of my mother’s house, didn’t I?) but not necessarily left homesickness behind. We’ll see. There’s comfort in my surety in having the correct tools to manage and process my feelings, and Stu — being in his arms tends to make everything better. And he smells so good like all the time.
Who knows how this is all going to unfold? I’m psychic, not a prophet. There’s nothing I can confidently say about the future. All I can do is be confidently rooted in the decisions I made in the past, like the one to leave, like the one to leave and go so far away. I miss my people — somehow, even though I didn’t see them all the time, not being able to jump into a cab and arrive on their doorstep leaves these hairline fractures on my heart. But we’ll always have Whatsapp and time. While I revel in the latter and beg the good graces of the former, I’m going to put together a bomb playlist of all my favourite Jeremih and Frank Ocean, load up my bus card and go and explore this old-ass city.