Goodbye home

One mid-August morning caught me on a train from Bucharest to Sighisoara. I had just spent two weeks there with my friends–going out at night and taking the first subway home, sleeping in cars in Vama Veche and getting pissed at Placebo. I was staring aimlessly out the window when the train stopped in Brasov. I perked up suddenly to watch the scene that was unfolding outside.

A young man was loading two heavy suitcases onto the train, while a small group of people watched him patiently, willing themselves to smile. It took me a second to realize what was going on. The young man had just finished high school and was jumping on a train headed for Western Europe–Vienna or beyond–where he would attend college hoping for a better education. On the platform were mom, dad and grandmother wrestling each other to hold him one last time before he boarded. Off to the side stood his two guy friends, caught with their guard down in a rare moment of vulnerability. Behind them, small, with her hands tucked deep in her pockets, stood his girlfriend.

He left his suitcases on the train and jumped off again. Mom and Dad rushed to hug him once more–they kissed him on the forehead, stroked his cheek and arranged his dark hair. They started crying and hugged him yet again as if he was heading for the end of the world alone. He broke free and walked through them to his girlfriend. They hugged and kissed shyly. The wind only knows what promises they made to each other. He shook the hands of his two friends and then jumped back on the train just as the whistle blew.

When he disappeared from sight, I got a lump in my throat. Seeing him on the platform made perfect sense. I knew the scenario. Smile, hug them, crack a few jokes and then jump on the train to start your journey. Sure you will miss them, but they shouldn’t be so sensitive about it. After all, you’ll call, write, visit… it’s not that big of a deal.

But I had never seen THEM.

As the train started moving, the group on the platform was all I saw and they weren’t what I had imagined myself three years ago. Mom and Dad were pinned to the ground crying. The wise grandmother was waving, swinging her arm wildly. The girlfriend, one hand out of her pocket waved just barely. The two friends gave up all pretense of being cool and started chasing the train, tears pouring from their eyes.

I had never seen anything this personal and it was painful because I finally understood that leaving is not only about the person taking off. It wasn’t just about me three years ago, and, as I count my last hours home, it’s not just about me now.

I have been saying goodbyes for a week and I probably broke down after each of them mostly out of being overwhelmed by the feeling that the person cared. I am at a loss for words, out of thanks and out of conclusions. I wanted to feel what returning home was like and I got a full platter of it.

I wish I could say I’m leaving a wiser man than the kid on the Brasov platform. Hopefully I am—time will tell.

What I have left is music, which always said everything better than I ever could. Here is my “Goodbye Home” playlist, a 31-track monster that I’ve been putting together for a while.

Oh yeah, Romania fucking rocks!

1. Ben Kweller – Run
2. The Decemberists – O Valencia
3. The Postal Service – Such great heights
4. Snow Patrol – Set the fire to the third bar
5. Placebo – Meds (Feat. Vv Of The Kills)
6. The Cardigans – Give me your eyes
7. Jack’s Mannequin – MFEO Pt. 1
8. The Killers – When You Were Young
9. slackstring – Stranded
10. The Mountain Goats – Half dead
11. The Decemberists – Yankee bayonet (I will be home then)
12. Tilly and the Wall – Do you dream at all
13. Rilo Kiley – It’s a hit
14. Yo La Tengo – Beanbag chair
15. The Pipettes – Judy
16. Lily Allen – LDN
17. Muse – Supermassive black hole
18. Dirty Pretty Things – You fucking love it
19. Panic! At the Disco – Only difference between martyrdom and suicide is press coverage
20. Pink – U and Ur hand
21. Meg & Dia – Indiana
22. The Postmarks – Goodbye
23. The Dresden Dolls – Sing
24. The Raconteurs – Steady As She Goes (Acoustic)
25. Tarkio – Caroline Avenue
26. Snowden – Anti-Anti
27. Niste Baieti – Daca ploaia s-ar opri
28. The Kooks – Seaside
29. Architecture in Helsinki – The owls go
30. The Walkmen – Lost in Boston
31. M. Ward – Right in the head

4 Responses to “Goodbye home”

  1. This is so sad.

    I’m glad you are coming back and I hope it’s not too hard on you or your family. But I’m sure it will be a jolt for both.

    It sounds cheesy, but we are always here if you need us 🙂

  2. Congrats on getting your green card (or whatever it was you were waiting for). Sorry to see you go, we had some good times together. I hope you got the messege that I was still in transit on my way back from Chisinau while your medevil going away bash was taking place. Excalibur sure is all the rage in Tg-M. Forcing people to eat with their hands and then charging them more for it? What kind of voodoo marketing magic is this? And where do I get some? Hope to see you here right soon, if not maybe I’ll catch up with you in Boston over a bowl of clam chowder. Ciao, success si ne vedem in curand.

  3. This is a very valueable blog and this post especially is valueable to me. I know the feelings you describe there…lived them for a thousand times seems like…The idea that you’re heading off to somewhere different, fresh, better can never overcome what you’re leaving behind. Nice song list…would like to add A-ha- You’ll never get over me…for the title’s sake…and not only 😉

  4. ouch.

    when i leave home on that all-too-familiar flight, i never know what i leave behind. i can only imagine.
    and no one else can know. no one’s watching my little grandma looking after me with tears in her eyes or my dad trying to keep it cool, probably hands in his pockets and an all-too-familiar feeling of loss in his heart.

    tougher than we, the leavers, would want to admit, huh?…

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