I threw my carry-on into the backseat. Once behind the wheel, I paused to take a mental inventory of what I would need: passport, check; traveler’s checks, check; cash in dollars and Turkish lira, check …
I looked at my watch: half past three. I gazed on our townhouse, reflecting; the third Christmas in a row with no jolly wreath on our door or festive lights decorating the trim. I had a little less than two and a half hours to get to the airport, which was less than fifteen minutes away, to purchase my tickets to JFK with a continuing flight to Istanbul, get on the plane, and take off. I couldn’t procrastinate any longer, so I started the engine, pulled out of our driveway, and headed north toward Reagan National Airport.
The gray, windy December day promised a heavy downpour, precisely mirroring my mood. I tightened my grip on the wheel to steady my shaking hands. I’d left a short note for my husband telling him it was time for me to go and face whatever awaited me there. I was not going to miss the chance to see my grandmother one last time. I would not let them erase me from my family’s map.
Until a few years earlier, before the dark journey began, we frequented the country at least once a year, and my family paid us annual visits. Then came the nightmare; changing everything, turning our life upside down.
I had plotted the trip in secrecy, something I had never done in all our years of marriage. I knew he would do everything he could to stop me from taking this trip. It was, after all, a matter of life and death.
I turned right into the airport entrance and squinted to make out the signs to long-term parking. My vision blurred, and I realized it was not poor visibility but tears. My determination, my will, began to melt with each passing second. I passed the parking entrance and continued on. I made two more turns around the airport, tears still falling, before I took the exit. Now I was crying out loud; sobbing. The pangs, pain, fear, rage and everything else I had bottled up in me for the past four years began to pour out; a floodtide of grief.
Yes, this was true acceptance, full acknowledgment. I could never ever go back. I would never see my extended family again. My past, my ties, my bonds and heritage all had been wiped out - completely and forever.
In my country of origin I have been branded as a spy for the United States of America. There I have been characterized as a "traitor against the country" and named as "the enemy of the state."