TBI: Part 2
I wake up, jostled by both the interruption of turbulence and the nausea building inside of me. I take a look at my phone, safely locked into airplane mode: I’m only two hours into my roughly eight-hour flight from Charles de Gaulle to Logan.
I took myself to the airport. It was one of the many things I’d opted to do alone since the accident. I woke up at 4am ready to board an 8:30am flight back to the United States.
I’d spent the better part of these ten or so days in bed, stifling my need to call out for help with the reminder of my not wanting to burden anyone without familial obligation. Instead, I lay there, feeling a separation and strangeness to the room and the home that had been mine for the past eight months.
It was as if the car’s impact knocked me not only out of my body and out of my mind, but out of my right to any previous claim I had to this life.
Before the accident, I’d felt an unfamiliar otherness the entire year: more aware of the nuances my upbringing had imprinted on me and of how they robbed me of my anonymity in this foreign city. American, though common, wears its own sort of mark, and even masking it in silence can’t hide it forever.
Lying in bed each day, a certain immediacy grew within me. I knew I had to do something. The feeling of not belonging somewhere, being a part of no place, of no body, and not even to my own person, was too pervasive, penetrating every and any element I could recognize of myself.
Skype calls home always went something like this:
Me: “I don’t know what to do. It hurts too much to move. I can’t lie here forever, but I can’t do anything else.”
Mom: “You can come home. You don’t need to stay.”
Dad: “We want you here. We want you to come home and get better.”
The calls would end with the sticky sting of tears gathering in my eyes. Or another rush of nausea would come over me, and I’d throw up instead of saying good-bye.
I heard them, my parents’ words evidence of my belonging, but the shell that had wrapped around me had begun to harden, cementing its form around my body and my life.
I belonged to no place, to no one, to nothing.
One afternoon, following another morning of sleep, I had an epiphany. If comfort and love were no longer innately mine, if I had no inherent claim, I needed to find them within others, seeking out an external source. In those few moments of realization, my mind formed the image of my body as a vessel, a receptacle for others’ needs, so that maybe I could fill my emptiness.
What I didn’t know yet, was that in seeking this acceptance from others, I’d only fall farther away from myself.
I came out of baggage claim, spotting my father immediately. I smiled, grateful to see him after ten months apart. Walking toward him, a slight optimism tried to convince me that this familiarity would replace the darkness growing inside of and all around me. I hoped that a return to my old life would bring a narrative, depth, and meaning back to my world. Hugging my father, I was terrified it wouldn’t.