I miss you… a parent here, a sibling there, countless aunts and uncles, cousins, and newborns… I miss you. Across seas, valleys, and skies, families sit separated.
They show up on our phones, Facetime and WhatsApp, the personal zooms; my grandfather smiles with tears in his eyes as his lips drift apart to let out a simple, loaded, “vous me manquez” (I miss you guys). Babies are being born everywhere. A new cousin in Rio and another in London; the warmest of life moments shared over soulless pieces of glass, metal, and rubber.
We’re not there.
They’re not here.
Some of us, the cashless youngins, ungratefully confined with those who cook our diners and spin our laundry, cling to what used to be, pissed off that we didn’t get enough time, time to enjoy life as we believe it ought to be.
Some of us, confined with children, living in the little red schoolhouse and the big glass office towers, at the YMCA, and at the movies, all packed under a single roof. We take them to the park, we pray they’ll go back to school, we’re sorry we don’t get to fulfill their childhood holiday dreams. “No we’re not going away” and “no you won’t get to see your cousins or your grand-parents.”
All the planes I used to enjoy complimentary peanuts, what-felt-like fake coffee and wine in, all the hugs I used to happily sink into, the celebrations, the simple dinners, and the big blowouts… all taken for granted. Growing up a daughter of four, two on one side of the Atlantic, the rest on the other, I convinced myself that I was one of the best equipped to deal with prolonged distance. One family, the daily one, the other, the one you’re always on vacation with grows easy to miss, through the years.
I feel like a child, ridiculously throwing my head back, wide-mouthed, warm tears, arms extended longing to be held. Do you? I feel like a middle-aged woman , raising kids, endlessly lounging on the couch, glass of wine in hand, mindlessly watching Frozen, longing to avoid thoughts of reduced Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Years. I miss you.
Those happy joyful times have been reduced to bittersweet mush. As they inch closer, sending tiny jolts of electric shocks through bones and hearts, I yearn to escape to future, better times…. Leaning on undefined timelines and glorious vacation plannings with friends and family across the globe, I catapult into the next, projection as coping, projection as evasion.
I missed both of my french siblings’ birthdays. Hysterically crying over the phone on May 10th and August 28th, incessantly thinking “I should be there, I should be there, I should—” I cower in front of the pained pressure that is longing. At least, I can pause my video, my audio, the older generation goes “hey why does it say paused,” because I cannot bear to see you see me sad. At times, phone calls are missed, weeks go by and I haven’t talked to them, my people, spread across the world. Guilt is warped, nothing makes sense like it used to anymore, as though everything were loading, that frustrating spinning rainbow wheel, what are you so happy about?
Cynical, sinister, snap out of it…. I close my eyes, marvelling at the idea of future times, different times, together times…. I dream up vacation plans for whenever. I’ll be taking my second mother to Bali soon, and I’ll spend a whole month in Rio, kissing the baby’s squishy face, another in London, rekindling a relationship I cherish so and building a new one with that baby. I’ll rush to France and pour all my love onto my grand-mother, who’s been living alone. Take my jug to Paris, pour some more out there, now onto the north of France. Leave enough for Ireland. Go see a best friend in Amsterdam, maybe even Toronto, to witness my engaged friends’ wedding.
I close my eyes and escape to 10 years from now, maybe I’ll be married, maybe I’ll have my own kids, my career will be boomming? Or maybe I’m just travelling, writing in some cabin, taking the siblings to DisneyLand, going to a concert? It does not matter, as long as it is not right here right now.
In my projections, I see me, coming off a plane, running into my (biological) father’s arms, he kisses my forehead, my lips curl, he holds my face in his hands and we smile at one another. In my projections, I am in Brazil, happy tears rolling down our cheeks as my uncle and I embrace for the first time in what already feels like forever. In my projections, I lose myself in a loud club, jumping, eyes faded to waves of sound; I turn my gaze to meet hers, whoever she may be… we lock more than eyes that night.
In fantasy, I see myself strolling along La Seine, crêpe in one palm, the other jokingly pushing a friend after they make a stupidly perfect comment. My head swings in loud cackles, I am happy. My eyes twinkle, it is sunny. We’ll exchange presents, expressions, stories, plans, feelings… love, in person love, that’s what will be exchanged.
This will not end in the sense that we wish, but it shall progress, we shall heal, and, oh, won’t those retrouvailles (reunions, reconnections) be the best things we’ve ever felt? Won’t those long awaited moments fill our hearts in ways we didn’t know possible? Won’t we rejoice deeply, sincerely, won’t it all mean more than it used to? Tightly, I grasp onto the certainty that we will, it will, feel absolutely amazing. Carry on, it will all come home soon….
Will we stop taking precious time for granted? I wish but I doubt…. On some level, I hope we don’t. On some level, human nature is about being the goldfish, meeting someone new every 5 seconds, it’s just me goldfish, it’s about getting on the ice with blades once a year, legs trembling for a second before they recall the swish push motion. “The more things seem to change the more they stay the same.”
I can no longer grasp what ‘soon’ entails, it has morphed into ‘as soon as possible,’ and naturally I mind, but in efforts to foster hope, momentary joy, and peace, I tell myself we have a lifetime, and even if we don’t, we have what we have. Every relationship in its uniqueness, a hidden treasure inaccessible by any other; once borders open, keys and locks will latch, click, and turn anew.
May air hugs and blowed kisses find you well and may you feel them on your skin as soon as possible….
About the Author
Iman M’Fah-Traoré is a French New Yorker. Originally born in Paris, she moved to New York in her young years and majored in Politics and Governance at Ryerson University, Toronto. She is now attending the New School in NYC for Global Studies. The Ivorian and Brazilian writer works with The Womanity Project, a non-profit that challenges gender equity with innovative workshops. Currently, she is working towards assembling her first poetry book. Her writing specializes in LGBTQ+, grief and trauma, and race and ethnicity poetry and essays.