To wander is to say goodbye, to hug deeply, to drink in the scent of another before she steps out the door. To turn back into an empty apartment, suddenly forlorn and gaping from the tear of light streaking across the floor. To raise your camera only to delete pictures taken in the sun of months bygone.
To wander is to watch the stars over strange mountains, to feel the cold exhale of somewhere else as you gaze endlessly at the highway stretching before you. To walk silently under trees manifest in different forms, drinking in your own breath, tasting the oxygen, the kiss of life, from their brothers worlds away. To stare at the shades of the sun on the horizon, the strange hues of turquoise or blood-red or warm, hazy grey.
To wander is to see the face of travelers next to you, to bravely respond to the little old nun who asks you where you are from, to hold the woman weeping through security, her hands trembling from too many years of narcotics. To linger in crystal shops while the woman behind the counter, eyes rich from other dimensions, sees the reflections of your own life better than you can. To thank the young, muscly tourist who lifts your heavy bag onto the conveyor belt.
To wander is to sit on a bus and listen to a couple murmur to one another in a foreign language, to hear a mother chide her child softly as he kicks a seat too hard. To smell a cologne in the streets of a European city that momentarily lights up your most bittersweet memories. To sit back in a taxi while the asphalt recedes into mazes of people and conversations and stories.
To wander is to sit for hours in contractions of laborious traffic, teeth set hard while waiting for the light to flicker green. To book a flight on a leap of faith. To nervously wait to be called up to the counter, asking timidly for a visa, only to be told to come back next week. To come back the next week, and the week after, pink visa finally glued like concrete in the folds of your passport.
To wander is to hug your sister one last time, to pack hastily and drag a suitcase through too much gravel. To cry and laugh as the driver brings your forgotten shot records just before your gate closes. To read the letter your brother wrote to you again, and again, and again, gathering together the wisps of your courage. To grasp your mom’s hand one last time as she gives you her most prized bracelet, giving with it her protection, her guidance, her touch.
To wander is to run panting through the airport, images of the plane taking off without you setting a frantic metronome to pace your adrenaline. To be stopped in security by a man in a uniform, demanding that you take off your heavy boots. To snatch your bag and pound up an escalator, ticket waving in hand, suitcase wheels catching each stair at another odd angle. To finally step onto the plane, aware that the other, more timely passengers are staring at you with irritated curiosity. To remember that you used to do the same to every other late, sweating, wild-eyed traveller.
To reach a new place, and sit again in the dark, suitcase fresh and folded. Tears foreshadowing an unfolding of new days and old memories and present confusions. A cracked mirror showing you that, even here, you are enough to do it all again, every moment of joy and pain and connection.
To wander means to be utterly lost and yet so completely found at the same time.