This month I have helped two dear friends to pack their bags. I have said good bye to many friends in the last few years but I have never had the chance to see their process so close. There is something different about a good bye party and your friend smiling with a beer saying it will visit you on Christmas (but you know he won't) to see your friend' closet going empty, trying to figure out if that old shirt that brings warm memories from High School is an indispensable item or not.
There is something different about checking that bag' weight and asking if they are going to need all those bathing suits in that cold place, how many pair of shoes can they put, how many times they would have to wash the only items they can carry; for a year or more. This month was a friend who marry and left to Australia with her husband. The other is following his new wife up to Canada, she found a job there.
So we smile and argue about the best way to pack the shirts, and the pants. We suggest her to take at least one good dress because you never know if you have an occasion that merits it over there. We take one last picture. One girl looks at one drawer and asks "What about perfume? Are you going to take any?" - "Well" - Our emigrant friend answers - "Maybe just one bottle, pack just my favorite one... there is no room for anything else" - "Can I take your books?" - "Take everything you want... except this one.. and this one"...
Then follow a discussion about what the parents are going to do with the empty room. They will probably keep it as a guest house in case the lost daughter or son decides to pay a short visit. We speak about the last bank intervened, the latest political prisoner, the last acquaintance we heard of being kidnapped. In every meeting, even one as informal and quick as helping your friend with the last minute details before their departure, those anecdotes arise. Then our friend looks at us and says "Just be careful, all of you who are staying here, please just take care of yourselves".
Then we promise a visit, someday, somewhere. They promise a visit, in the same vague terms. Keep in touch. You added me to skype yesterday. I will let you know when the apartment is ready and you'll know you have a home over there...
I have homes in many places. In United States, Mexico, Chile, Panama, Spain, Germany and Australia, to name a few. But like I have said over and over again in this blog, I'm not those kind of people who dream about traveling around the world and staying for free. I'm more like those kind of people who would rather keep their friends close. Not for a random every two, three four years visit, not for a Skype call. I would rather have my friends like I used to have them, for a phone call (plain, normal, local phone call), for a coffee, for a drink, for a short trip to the beach, for a reunion, for a birthday, for a movie, for watching a soccer game together. I would rather have my friends at my love ones funeral, and in the hospital if a disease comes along, or meeting the newborn of any of us face to face, not thanks to a Facebook mobile picture.
But my friends are now ambassadors, filled part with nostalgia and part with new adventures. Their lives are no longer mine. They are not available for long talks and huge laughs anymore. At most, long stories rely on email and blogspots. And, the desires to come back. If they only could, if they were not so disconnected already, if things were better, if things were different.