Last night, after a tiring day at work and a frustrating evening trying to squeeze in some furniture shopping at Heal's and Habitat on Tottenham Court Road before closing time (they close at 7 p.m. on week nights. 7. Who does that?), I went home, cooked dinner, and collapsed in a heap on my bed, vowing not to move until my alarm went off the next morning.
At some point, in the early hours of the morning, I had a terrible, awful dream.
I dreamed that my mother died.
Of course, I'm sure you've all had dreams about a family member or loved one dying - you wake up, realize it isn't true, call the person in your dreams, feel relief rushing through your body as you hear their voice, and get on with your day, counting your blessings.
But this wasn't like that. This was awful. I dreamed that I got this news when I was in London - half-way around the world. I rushed home on the plane and ran up those familiar stone steps, pushed open the screen door, ran upstairs to my parents' bedroom - in the house I've always known - and rushed to my parents' bed. She wasn't there, but the familiar dent in the pillow where she'd slept on was still there. Suddenly, I had this terrible realization in my dream that she was never coming back.
And I was crying these horrible, gasping sobs - the kind where you're half asleep, so you don't sound like you're crying, but more like you're making these strange, guttural noises. That kind of crying.
My biggest fear, my greatest fear of all as an expat, is that something happens to my family on the other side of the world, and I can't be there in time to see them. To save them. To help them. To be there for them.
In those instances of fear, it isn't guilt that grips me - it's a feeling that's worse than that. Like rot that rises up from within you; rot that's always been there, waiting, teeth-bared, ready to consume you.
This is the darkness that I fear, that I can't escape from.
And you know, I know I chose this: "this", meaning living 5,000 miles away from my parents and brother. And I also think that purchasing our first home here has pushed that choice to the forefront of my mind.
I have to remind myself: nothing is permanent. Everything is temporary. We can always rent out the house if we'd like, and move to Seattle. Or San Francisco. Or New York.
But then, I remind myself: nothing is permanent. Everything is temporary. Even life.
So I scroll through my Instagram photos filled with images of flowers and cocktails and blue skies and food. I touch the new lamp we just bought for the house. I wait for that rot to recede; that rot that smothered me while I was sleeping. I put on a pair of heels so it can't grab at my ankles and I try to get on with my day, try to count my blessings, and anxiously wait to FaceTime with my mom tonight.