Usually, Kai and I compete for the precious window seat on our flights to the Netherlands anxiously awaiting the familiar smell of cows and potatoes. From friendly games of Rock-Paper-Scissors to recklessly racing through the plane’s cabin, we always jousted for the privilege to witness the setting sun, the vast ocean, and the tulip fields of our homeland. In the spirit of our tradition, as soon as we entered the cabin, I jolted forward to reach the window seat. I looked behind me to see my brother sluggishly putting away his luggage, completely uninterested in our age-old game. I noticed he brought a few extra bags for this trip. Confused by his indifference, I sheepishly asked why he threw the challenge. Words lingered on his slightly-pursed lips, hindered by his own ambivalence. “I’ll talk about it tomorrow, Isa. For now, I need my sleep.” He closed his eyes and laid his head back, but I could tell he was wide awake. He simply needed time to collect his thoughts.
Growing up, my family was split in two: Kai and I spent one week living with our mom and the other with our dad. Speaking English and partaking in American culture with my father and Dutch with my mother left me and Kai both feeling confused. One week I enjoyed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my lunch yet the next I chomped down on hagelslag and butter. I never had a stable identity – I was a blend that was always changing. Kai was the only one who kept me grounded as we soared above the clouds.
As the plane finally landed, Kai jerked forward and took a deep breath. He cocked his head to the side and began to choke on his words. “Isa, I’m not coming back to the United States.” Vitesse decided to recruit him as a professional soccer player, and he had to stay in the Netherlands to train. Suddenly, the ground was ripped out from underneath me. Without my brother, my stability fell apart. His motionless, abandoned room became a constant reminder that he was thousands of miles and an ocean away. Missed phone calls and my parents’ tears only made mine flow harder. I waited months until I could see my brother again and then a few more months after that. Soon, this process became clockwork.
After years of feeling lost, I began to find solace in this limbo. I had viewed myself as a vagrant, shifting between my two selves as I traveled across the empty sky every few months. I feel empowered by the struggle of keeping connections to my family. It took my brother leaving for me to realize that this limbo is where I thrive. My life is defined by inconsistency, but I find myself living in the simple comfort of myself. While flying to see Kai, I once again look out the window in wonder looking forward to the familiar sights and smells.