My dog was dead. My beautiful, black and white Springer, Maggie, was dead 3 days before I left Switzerland. Leaving would validate her death. Upon returning to my home, she wouldn’t be there to smell all my clothes and jump on me like she had 5 months earlier. If I returned she would really be dead. As long as I was 6,000 miles away, she wouldn’t really not be there.
Returning was necessary. It was financially unfeasible for me to remain there. My family didn’t have the money to keep me at the school, and I was unwilling to perch precariously on a mountain of debt. In late May, I got on a little plane with whirring propellers to Zurich and headed “home”.
“Home” at this point wasn’t real. I was leaving my new family- my beautiful, vivacious friends. I was leaving my new home- my messy studio apartment with lentils on the ceiling due to a bad canned lentils accident and a tiny shower in a black granite bathroom. I slept in my house with the door open to the balcony, hearing rain pound endlessly just outside my door, letting the cool air waft in. I wore rain boots and ate horribly and drank sugar-laced apfelsaft. I walked downtown to get Thai food with my beautiful friends, and Hannah and I shared gelato and meandered around, buying gummy candy for no reason. We walked through the park or made food at ridiculous hours.
To me, leaving was the worst. I was in mourning about 2 months before I had to leave. I desperately photographed everything- even playing Uno on the floor drinking heady wine and bier. I took videos on bad and good days. I tried to piece together what it was like, even though I knew I’d glaze it over to only the good moments.
Packing up my room was the weirdest. At that point I was numb. I simply got rid of things without understanding their significance. How proud I was to put together the Ikea shelf I bought, how much I loved my little duck-shaped laundry hamper meant for children. How heavy it was so get my books back to America and how I refused to leave almost any of them. How taking photographs off my walls made them echo more.
Taking the taxi to the airport was surreal. I’d done it quite a few times before. I knew the drill. The overdressed Switalian man would load my luggage in his trunk and not be able to fit both enormous suitcases in. He’d drive the same beautiful Jaguar and listen to bad ’90’s pop on the radio. He’d make minimal conversation and I’d go over in my mind if I had my passport and boarding pass. Getting to the airport I didn’t want to cry. Nobody I knew was on my flight. I felt so alone. I checked in, using some of the last Italian I’d use ever. I stumbled over the words, making a mess of the language I’d hated and loved and messed up for two years.
I got onto the plane, and looked out the window. It was clean and white. I saw classmates faces but they didn’t know who I was. No flicker of recognition. I sat silently, looking to see how long of a layover I had in Zurich. I looked around and saw the hills in green, covered in the lush trees.
Crying finally caught me as the plane took off. Planes out of the Lugano airport take off at a very steep angle because of the surrounding terrain and I remember loving how I knew that and how I would hopefully fly back in fast and hard in a year or two. I took pictures out the window and saw San Salvatore underneath me. I could spot the park and Gandria and all the places I’d marched all over that beautiful city.
I haven’t been back. I don’t know if I ever will be.