The Long Haul: Reunion is sweet…literally

Megan Amato // Associate News Editor 

Men, women and non-binary folk stand in swarms with blooming bouquets in hand. Some shift on their feet, waiting anxiously for their loved ones to walk out of the airport doors and back into their lives. As the traveller walks into the arrivals lobby, there are hesitant searching glances around the room before their gaze lands on their quarry. There are exuberant embraces, laughter and sometimes tears as loved ones spin others around with joy. It’s a beautiful moment for many. Or at least that’s how films make reunion out to be.  

As I follow the signs towards the exit, suitcase rolling behind me, my stomach turning with every step I take, my anxiety decides to torture me. What if he’s not there? What if he doesn’t find me attractive anymore? I pause just before the door that leads to the waiting room, steal a breath and walk out. I glance around nervously until my eyes land on him. He smiles nervously, the nearly luminous orange bottle of Irn Bru in hand—a tradition between us—and walks toward me. He seems taller. His hair is shorter. We kiss fast and almost chaste. There’s a moment of silence before he takes my bag and my hand—his are clammy—and wheels us toward the exit. He asks about my flight and we make small talk on the way out—it’s awkward. It always is with me. We get in the car and drive towards his flat. I said something about the weather. I take a sip of the saccharine Irn Bru. He makes a joke and I laugh. I begin to relax. Finally, here is my husband. Reunion. 

We have been together for nearly eight years now, married for a year and a half. We’ve lived together for maybe half that time, visited each other in our prospective countries over the years and know each other almost too well. And still, every time the approaching date comes where one of us hops on a plane for that eight-to-ten hour flight, our stomachs churn with anxiety. We know we love each other, we’ve put in a lot of work to be together when it would have been much simpler and less lonely to find someone else in our own countries. And still, there is this dread, this nauseating fear that it won’t be enough, that I won’t be enough or he won’t be. Time and distance only add to this anxiety, creating self-doubt even though you know somewhere deep down that everything will be alright. I’m unsure if my husband feels this same level of anxiety, but I do know that he stands nervously as he waits for me, his hair recently cut and is dressed well. He wants to make sure that he looks the same from the last time I saw him. So maybe this anxiety is universal?  

It doesn’t take long after we’re alone together for things to start to ease into normality. We’ve been together long enough that we have habits and quirks together that have developed over time and seem natural to us. We talk about our mutual friends and his family who have become my family. I glance out the window, taking in the sights as we pass, the old tenements with Sainsbury’s, charity shops and bookies on the bottom. Red and white double-decker buses go up and down the narrow streets, and though they are driving on the opposite side of the road that I am used to, it isn’t novel to me. The sky is grey, typical for Edinburgh, but it’s familiar and at least I don’t have to be reaccustomed to it. I take my last sip of Irn Bru, knowing my poor teeth and body are deeply offended by the drink as we pull into the garage. We walk out, and I look up at the flats I lived in before I left Edinburgh and where my husband lives again and sigh. I am home. There is reunion here too. 

We spend the next couple weeks catching up on each other’s lives—despite being successful at maintaining a long-distance relationship, I am bad at it and don’t reply to messages about what I am up to as often as I should. We visit friends I haven’t seen in a while, places that are both of our favourites. He takes me to the pub we first met in, him reading a newspaper and chatting with the barmaid, me being a shy tourist and overtipping said barmaid. As we walk in, the guy behind the bar greets us both as if I’ve never left, pulls the tap and slides my husband’s usual over to him and asks me what I’ll be having. Later in my visit, we drive to the countryside to visit his family who threw together a “fake Christmas” for me two months after the date. We drink wine, open presents and I’m filled with an odd and almost foreign sense of belonging. I am not used to belonging, but that’s a story for another day. This is reunion. 

Our trips together only last a couple of weeks—for now—but they almost always have the same pattern: The apprehension leading up to the visit, the anxiety and fear at the airport and the slow sense of easing relief when everything is as it should be. Perhaps not the same. Everything and everyone must grow and adjust, but things are right. It doesn’t make the leading up to the reunion any easier, and as I write this article I am preparing for my trip over in a couple of days. My stomach already feels tense—though that could just be from the thought of flying. Reunions are scary, overwhelming with the sense of expectancy, but it’s the relief afterwards, the sense of place and belonging that makes those first moments of awkwardness worth it. 

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