I ordinarily take a plane from Chicago to Mexico City on the way back home and there is not much extraordinary about it. This time, however, I was ready to begin a new experience. I’m not talking about the usual self-discovery journey everyone goes through during the hangover depression after an incredible night. I am talking about the experience of living outside of the college bubble. I decided to study abroad for a whole year and before heading to my first destination I needed to go back home and check in with the family. Tickets purchased, my friend Dima gave me a ride to the airport from Lake Forest and after saying good bye with a joke about each other’s jobs, I am looking at the entrance of the airport with three suitcases, one bag-pack, and one canvas wrapped in paperboard.
I used to go to Dima’s house in Polish Village back in the day when we did more than ten shots of vodka just for fun. He lived with his childhood friend Andrew, and the three of us used to talk about everything and anything at the same time. Dima worked at a canvas print shop back then where he got every sort of illustration he used to hang in the house to create stories between the characters with Andrew. Some wacky characters included a girl sitting on the edge of a spaceship eating butterflies or a colorful gorilla looking straight at the viewer over a black rainy background. There was one and -only one- I had a deep connection with. It was called “The Wanderer.” The canvas of a old guy holding a cigarette looking straight at you. I don’t really know what caught my interest in it but I guess, like most art, it is something unexplainable. I used to look at it for hours. Sometimes I talked to it. I was afraid of it. I was in love with it. Most of the times I didn’t know how I felt around it. I had to have it so few months later, I bought the painting from my friend and I deliberately decided to carry it home with me.
Only something was wrong. The agent at the airline’s front desk said I was carrying too many things already and there was no way I could carry more things with me unless, of course, paying an exorbitant amount of money I did’t have. I did whatever kid could have done to make it work. I taped it to my luggage arguing that it was only one luggage instead of one sticked to the other. But laughs from agents, and some passengers too, showed only what seemed unavoidable. I had to leave it behind. Saddened, I approached the bench and I took a paper sheet from my notebook and with black ink I wrote the following note:
My name is Bernie Facio (FB: Bernie Facio) and I couldn’t take this with me to Mexico. This painting means a lot to me but now I have to leave it behind. I hope you know how to appreciate it as much as I do. My friend gave to me. If you have ever lost something, you’d understand how difficult it is to leave something behind. I’d appreciate it if you could keep it while I’m gone. Take good care of it and contact me, I’ll make sure to collect it or give you some cash for it.
Thank you stranger.”
I went outside and lit a cigarette. Pretending I am too hurried to take my plane I looked like I forgot the package. I went in and got into the flight headed to Mexico City with a layover in Houston. A little worried, more so than sad at the moment, I was thinking about the message over the airport speaker: “All alone baggage will be inspected and handed by Chicago Police Department.” I was afraid I will be considered a terrorist for leaving a package alone at the airport but certain nothing will happen because it is only a piece of art. I guess ultimately, what they say about loving something, then letting it go, is kind of true.
I tried to let it go as I tried to recognize why it took me so long to actually talk about this but now that I think about it, this experience created a sense of pain that unified me with people who have also felt this before. The only think that I am carrying with me is my bag-pack which contains the letter my friend Sanni handed to me before leaving. I won’t tell what the letter was about but I will tell that it made me cry because it was just too good and too personal and I hope someday I would actually see this great artist again.
It was an agitated flight. Right about 300 feet above Mexico City Airport’s landing track, the aircraft went abruptly back up. Everyone was staring at each other inside. The woman in front of me looked at me with a gaze similar to: “Oh my God someone hijacked the airplane!” But no. The captain spoke though the speaker and said that due weather conditions we had to land at another airport, so we headed to Acapulco, south of Mexico. Long story short, we got to Mexico City about 4 hours and 30 minutes later than expected. It was indeed an agitated flight. Sad, tired, upset, and hungry I looked at my family and explained the whole situation. They were surprised but we were mostly happy to see each other. Once back home I felt guilty for the amount of stories that Andrew and Dima had created to that canvas. It was part of a collection of memories that was gone forever. I was more than disappointed.
In my train of thought, I unexpectedly received a message from someone I didn’t know on Facebook who drew a smile on my face. Someone from the airline had put the canvas inside of another flight to Mexico City. I just had come and get it at the airport with an ID. On the way to the airport through Mexico City’s subway system the next morning I was comforted by the thought that there are people out there who are actually good to some other idiots like us. Life has certainly weird ways to get around and the smile in my face was only comparable to the face someone makes when finding his lost phone in a taxi. Unique and surprisingly relieving.