immigrant, Pakistan

International departures

June 24: I am in the large airy lounge at the Allama Iqbal Airport. It is 2am. I would like nothing better than to stretch my legs out and sleep. Considering I have at least 24 hours of travel ahead of me, I probably should. But the tumult in my heart will not rest.

This goodbye to my parents was the hardest so far, and I have said goodbye a number of times since I left Pakistan in 1994. Normally I retain my tears until much later, until I have been in my airplane seat for a few hours, it is dark, and no one can see me weep. This time, I wept silently all the way to the airport as my mother pressed and patted my hand, also silently and (as she thought) imperceptibly weeping.

I cried all the way from the entry into international departures through passport control, security check, and the lounge.

“Where are you going?” the security staff lady asked me. “America,” I answered with a voice full of tears. “Crying all the way?” she said with a smile.

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