So. Some stuff has happened.
After nearly two years of this weird life during this weird time, I finally got covid.
This was my sixth time being tested since the pandemic began. I’ve had four PCRs – two at Sabiha Gokchen in Istanbul, one in Skopje, and one in Baghdad – and two antigen tests. The first of the latter was at the very tail end of December when I was on my way to Venice from Budapest. The latter was last week, three days after I first notice that tell-tale Omarion tingle in the back of my throat, the day before I was supposed to fly to Chicago.
The States is, as of about a year ago, impossible (and, to be clear, unethical) to travel to without a negative covid test. Regardless of your citizenship.
And maybe now that my plane has taken off without me and I’m being forced to decide whether I want to buy another one is the perfect time to interrogate why I bought the ticket in the first place.
Because I’m not exactly sure.
It was like:
I was waiting to be handed a reason to go. And Cara’s birthday yesterday seemed like the perfect excuse. But.
An excuse it was.
See, for about a year – maybe a little less than – it hasn’t so much been that I’ve been forced to stay away, but rather decided to. We could say that May of 2021 drew that line between those two seemingly similar ideas, and even the line itself is somewhat nebulous.
It was May 10th to be exact: it was that flight from Belgrade to Tbilisi that I feared I wouldn’t even be able to board, but board I did. But. Like. I could have just as easily bought a flight to Chicago.
And I probably should have, considering the next few months flew by while I behaved like I had no plan at all. I woke up one morning and fled to Batumi. To Telavi. And eventually to Istanbul. And somehow three months passed while all of that happened.
And then, while I was waiting for a flight to Baghdad, I spent the most useless two months in history in the Balkans, drinking way too much beer and doing god knows what.
So what I’m saying is that somewhere between Belgrade and Baghdad I was making some kind of a decision, and now I’m making another one.
So my first flight to Chicago has come and gone, and even though I’ve now missed the reason that I was even going in the first place, everything feels like it’s at a fever pitch: like. I have to go. Now.
Specifically, on the 24th.
Okay, after that hour-or-so-break, I’ve returned with a confirmed flight.
So everything should be chill, right?
Not exactly: getting out of Ukraine, though seemingly simple, is trickier than you might think. Despite the paperwork that I’m in possession of. And it’s completely fucking nuts that I may be barred from boarding a flight to my own goddamned country without a letter signed by a doctor.
And incidentally, it would appear that this is my absolute last chance.
If I don’t get on this flight, that’s it. That scraps a visit to the States for sure, and it might scrap Medellín, too. And judging by my deteriorating mental health surrounding this whole situation (which is ironically juxtaposed against my increasingly healthy lungs and sinuses, thx Pfizer!) another missed flight is, to put it lightly, not going to be great for me.
It’s crazy to think that this would end exactly how it all began. That even after the lessons and wins of the last two years I’ve been returned to the exact person I was back in Johannesburg when this all started: trapped inside, that inside itself trapped within a border, with an encroaching internal threat pressuring me to leave.
And now, just days away from my absolute last chance in the foreseeable future to get back to the States, I’m out of excuses. And I don’t know if they’ve changed to reasons or if I’ve just come upon the tail-end of a proverbial rope, but it’s time.
So here’s hoping. Because of all my loves, Chicago might be my favorite. And I’m ready to say hello again.