“Oh, sorry… is it too cold with the air con on?”
Feng and I constantly argue about temperature—I like my showers and my general environment very warm, Feng loves to “cool off” using ice packs and turning on the air con.
But this time, I’m hot as well so I don’t mind the air con. It’s hot and stuffy tonight in São Paulo.
“I’m sniffing because I’m kind of crying,” I inform him with as much dignity as I can muster.
“I’m sorry… I’m really sorry. You’ll be okay. We’re going be okay. What time is it? What, 4 p.m.? Shit, how can it be 4 p.m. already? Do you want my backup pillow?”
“You have a backup pillow?”
Ladies and gentlemen, I married a guy who has a backup pillow. I hope you’re as lucky as me.
“Nah, I’m not too picky on pillows… I’ll take your Advil, though.”
We’ve just picked up the laundry and everything is spread out on the bed. Mark is moody. Feng is stressed out because going back to Canada involves many, many steps, unknown rules, and everything is complicated right now up north—restrictions, inflation, winter and more. And I’m stressed out because I’m about to be alone in Brazil—I really don’t want to suffer in Canada right now but I’m still scared and sad to lose two members of the team because we are a good team.
We flew back from Florianópolis to São Paulo on Wednesday. It was a long, boring day but it went by fast—driving to the airport, returning the rental car (processed by an employee named… Stalin, no kidding!), then the short 75-minute flight to São Paulo. We went straight to the COVID testing centre inside the airport, step one before coming back to Canada for Mark and Feng. It was packed and it took a while but they got the results four hours later—both negative.
We spent the following day getting ready for our trips. Haircuts for the three of us, last-minute shopping (did you know that Brazil has very cool fidget toys?) in Libertade, last chance to enjoy a movie at the theatre for Feng and Mark since they are closed in Ontario.
“We’re leaving. It doesn’t feel like we’re leaving,” Feng lamented when I picked them up at the mall after the movie (I’m not exactly into Spiderman…).
We tried to enjoy our last day together knowing that at 5 p.m., Feng and Mark would take a taxi to the airport and I would spend the evening getting ready for my own flight the next morning. We went to Japan House São Paulo, then we hung out on Paulista and walked back to the hotel.
I can’t stop crying. This is ridiculous, I’m a grown-up!
We hugged one last time and the taxi left. I didn’t look back, I just went straight to Paulista. São Paulo’s busy downtown avenue is a great place to go when you want to be alone with strangers around you. I called my mum, bought dinner, then came back to the hotel. I was dreading this moment—opening the door and finding the room empty, Feng’s keycard on the table, the TV off and the place way too quiet.
It’s easier to leave than to be the one who stays behind. I’m always the one who leaves, and I think about all the people I said goodbye to over the years.
I use one of Mark’s trick—I turned all the lights on. Mark does it all the time when we leave him alone in an Airbnb or at home—lights are on in every room when we come back even though he claims it wasn’t him.
The night before, I complained I couldn’t work because Mark was watching TV in the living room and Feng was watching a movie on the other TV in the bedroom, and Portuguese plus translation work in English and French is just too much for my brain.
The hotel room has never been this quiet. I can hear traffic outside and various notifications on my phone.
I miss yesterday’s noisy TVs.
Emails and messages from friends. My friends are awesome. I love my friends. They didn’t know I needed to chat tonight, but they are here anyway.
I start packing methodically. I have this weird superstition that neat packing is good luck. This is strange because in real life, I’m not superstitious. I believe there’s no god and we should fucking love each other regardless. But Feng and I have all kinds of travel superstition—I’m not stupid, I know this is just a way to control something we can’t control but I’m putting efforts into folding clothing and arranging the content of my backpack the way I like it. It keeps me focused on something, which is good because I really don’t want to cry again.
Feng calls me from the airport. They are at the gate, so far so good.
I’m alone. Must not freak out or at least in my head, very briefly.
I’m going north as well… but in Brazil.