It’s a gorgeous summer day here in Brooklyn and I wake up exactly 10 minutes before my alarm is set.
It’s the beginning of July and the weather hasn’t been too humid lately. I check my weather app and see that it’s going to be 70 degrees and sunny today - the perfect day for a run. As I’m looking through what the rest of the week is going to look like my phone vibrates and I see my sister’s name light up on the top of my screen.
“Time for a phone call right now? Want to hear your voice!” it reads
“DUH! Just getting ready to go out for a run, I’ll make it a long walk so we can chat!”, I instantly reply as I get undressed and search for some clean leggings.
My sister is basically the definition of Bohemian Badass: she graduated a year early from Binghamton University Summa Cum Laude and is taking a year to volunteer and travel around the world before she comes back to New York to get her Masters. She’s my daily inspiration and my best friend. We talk on the phone every 2-5 days depending on when our schedules line up; I bartend at night most days so it’s usually pretty easy to work out. And thank GOD for that because I don’t know what I’d do without her.
I make sure my battery is charged on my wireless headphones and my phone, scramble to slip on my Nikes and snag my keys before scurrying out the door. I press the call button on the top right corner of our WhatsApp conversation and listen to the countless rings before she picks up,
“Hey babes, how’s your day going?”
She’s seven hours ahead of me in Jerusalem, so she gets to talk all about her day while I start to wake up and start mine.
We’re chatting about her adventures and how my artwork is going. We dance around the fact that we miss each other and focus on the positive warm stories we need to share.
This is the first talk we’ve had since I bought my tickets to Athens and I am dancing with excitement to be able to see her. She’s taking a week in Athens between her volunteer jobs and I decided that I couldn’t wait to see her until late November (when she’s finally back in NY before returning abroad in January). The hardest part about the next month is going to be hiding this trip from her.
I’ve been buzzing with energy and know that she’ll be elated to see me.
That night after work as I sit down in bed I grab my journal and let the words flow onto the page. My hand can’t keep up with my mind and after 6 pages I take a deep breath and look outside my window. In a little over a month I’ll be on a plane on my way to see my sister, to see Athens and Amsterdam. I am glowing and my skin seems to be crawling. I look down at the page again and remember I still have work to do.
For two more hours I stayed up in a frenzy of research, reading, writing, planning and dreaming. Soon these plans would become actions. Soon, I would have my sister in my arms and by my side. I drifted off to sleep with my hand cramping, my head spinning, and my heart beating full as ever.
Even with my passport in my hands,
it still feels like a dream
It’s all I’ve talked about, all I’ve thought about. The day is here. Today I get on a plane to Athens, Greece. I’ve checked all my lists and made sure I haven’t forgotten a thing.
I told my sister there will be a car service at the Athens airport to pick her up and bring her to her hostel.. Which wasn’t a total lie - I just didn’t mention I’d be there too…
From my apartment to Port Authority, then midtown to Newark, I get through security and onto my first flight through Copenhagen, and finally on to Athens.
Landing here is surreal, it’s like I’ll wake up and it’ll be the fourth of July and all of those dreams of traveling to surprise Marissa will dissolve into the air with the fireworks.
But it’s real. I’m here.
I have an hour and half before Marissa lands so I kill some time. There’s a small cafe so I get a tea and open up my laptop. The words flow out of my head better like this sometimes, and I have so much to get out. Soon enough I see that I have 5 minutes until she lands so I get everything together and wait. And wait. And look up.
And I’m at the wrong gate.
My stomach drops to the floor, and I scramble to get to the other side of the airport.
I had it all worked out. This needs to work. It’ll be fine, I’m fine, this is gonna work.
I’m in New York City sidewalk mode, walking almost to a jog letting my suitcase glide in front of me, squeezing my way around couples, grazing past strollers and finally finding the “A” hanging from the ceiling. I catch my breath and slow down.
Her plane landed 2 minutes ago and it’ll take her some time to get to the gate.
Damn, Arielle relax. I tell myself. I sit down against the wall and take some deep breaths until I can stop shaking. I don’t know why I’m so anxious, but I know that this will lift when I see her. She can’t miss me, I couldn’t have missed her she just landed.
I talk myself down, get up and contact the taxi driver to let him know I’m outside the gate waiting.
Through my anxiety I work up the nerve to ask a sweet stranger to record a video of me surprising Marissa. We chat for a bit and she tells me she’s come to the airport to pick up her Godmother. She’s lived in Athens her whole life and I marvel about how amazing that is and she asks about New York. Between sentences she asks if I’m okay. I feel a nervous giggle escape from my lips and can feel the tears swell in my eyes.
“I just really miss my sister.”
“She’s coming soon! You’ll have wonderful time”, she assures me.
“Yes, of course, thank you. Now, if only she could make it to the gate!”
We stand in silence a bit longer until she sees her family enter the gate.
“I’m so sorry, I must go! Have fun and enjoy vacation!”
“Thank you!”, she heads off towards the gate and I’m left to tap my hands nervously on my suitcase alone.
After another ten minutes (now it’s been 25 minutes since she landed), I look around and try to find the taxi driver. He hasn’t responded to any of my texts which gets my anxiety going again. I try to breath calmly and evenly.
In big caps scribbled in black behind a laminated piece of paper, my name shines out above the crowd and I go towards the cab driver.
“Hi! That’s me!”, I exclaim.
I catch him up on the surprise and he agrees (“Of course!”) to film the surprise for me.
We share small talk:
Where are you from?
How long are you here?
You will have great time!
Until I see her come through the gate.
I let go of my bag and try to lock eyes with her.
She’s scanning the crowd in every direction but mine.
C’mon, she has to see my pink hair.
I glance at my taxi driver and smile and say “its her! its her! its her!!!”, barely above a whisper
“Go to her!”, He says
Suddenly I’m skipping towards her through the crowd. It’s like tunnel vision.
We lock eyes and I can hear her gasp.
She covers her mouth and I run towards her
My heart is overflowing with emotions as our giggles vibrate in harmony.
All those nerves, flutters of doubt, are washed away with pure joy.
After more exclamations we start to get a move on towards the cab.
This is real - but I’m still dreaming.
It’s like if there’s a wind gust too strong she’ll just blow away.
But, we get right down to business in the back of that taxi walking through what we’ll do next.
We may be on vacation, but we are one in the same - always planning, and getting right to work. She’s my other half and no matter what we do on this trip I couldn’t be more grateful to be sharing every minute of it with her.