Thursday, September 7, 2006

The Bridge to A Dream, by Lumi Cirstea

"I’m so nervous. I can’t keep my balance. My heart is out of control. “Miss! Miss! You forgot something.” A small hand stops me. It belongs to the flight attendant from the airplane. I can’t understand what she is saying, but then she passes me my passport and smiles. I nod and realize how lucky I am. Without my passport, I am lost."
"When I come out of the gate, there are hundreds of people running in many directions. It seems as if everyone knows where they are going. I watch for awhile. After a few minutes, I feel dizzy. Trying to get my bearings, I look up and can hardly see the ceiling. When I look down, the carpet is so green and clean that it doesn’t look real. There are a lot of security guards in clean, bright uniforms."
"I stay to the side in a corner and wait, trying to decide what to do next. After what seems like hours, I grab hold of my courage and step out into the stream of people flowing by me. I feel like I’m still flying instead of walking. I have no idea where I’m going. All I can do is hold onto my bag tightly and move forward quickly. I look straight ahead. There is no going back."
"Gradually, the river of people starts to slow down. Up ahead I see some officials directing us into different lines. Now I creep forward a few centimeters at a time, always looking ahead to see how close I am to the front of the line. Finally, it is my turn to leave the large red “X” taped on the floor and walk toward the counter I have been staring at for such a long time. When I don’t understand what the lady behind it says, she signals to another lady who comes over and gestures for me to follow her." 
"I look around nervously. What does this mean? No one in front of me was led away like this. I don’t understand what is happening. The lady opens a big white door and I follow her through it. The crowd and its noise disappear. I am led down a hallway with many closed doors. My guide signals me to sit down on a bench and wait, and then she leaves with my passport and official papers. I feel so lost and confused. Have I done something wrong? What if the lady never comes back? What will I do? I try to tell myself that everything will be all right, but I’m so scared that I can’t hear a word that I’m saying."
"Suddenly, I feel a tap on my shoulder. My lady has come back, and she wants me to follow her again. Now I am in a huge room that is divided into cubicles. Like a little homeless dog I follow my lady into one of them and see two police officers. I am terrified but when they start to talk, they seem very friendly. Unfortunately, I can’t understand a word of what they are saying. All I can do is shake my head and shrug my shoulders in apology. There is so much that I want to ask them, but I don’t know how."
"Now the police officers lead me to a small room with strange looking machines. The one with the mustache and a name tag that says “John” takes my hand, rolls the tips of my fingers across an ink pad, and then presses them on several official looking documents including my passport."
"My hands are sweating with nervousness and ink. I don’t understand why they are doing this. The one whose name tag says “Steve” points to a sink in the corner and indicates that I should wash my hands. Afterward, John gives me back my passport. With a smile on his face, he shakes my hand and says, “Welcome to America!" 
"I am taken back to where all the people are standing in lines but this time, I get to walk through the gates. I am in the corner of a huge room surrounded by hundreds of people. They look so different---so many colors, so many languages, so much noise. I listen as hard as I can, but I don’t hear any Romanian. I stand there, and I’m afraid."
“Think, Lumi, think!” I tell myself fiercely. Then, for the first time since I got off the plane, my mind starts to work. I can speak Italian. There must be someone else in all these people who can speak Italian, too. I can find somebody to point me toward the baggage area. Behind the Alitalia desk I see a man who looks European. When I approach him, he is very polite. His blue uniform with an Italian flag pinned on the lapel makes me smile. Once he gives me directions, I feel better. I know where to go."
"I spot my baggage right away. It is circling around and around, looking lost and alone on a giant silver machine. I struggle to lift off my suitcases. There are four of them, packed full, and I am so tired. Finally, I wrestle my bags to the floor beside me. Sitting on the edge of one of them, I try to think what to do next. I sit for a very long time with my pocket dictionary, looking up the words that I see on the signs around me. When I learn what “Exit” means, I know that it is time to go."
"But I can’t go anywhere with four enormous suitcases. Quickly I whisper the words of a Romanian nursery rhyme and eliminate two of my bags. I take off their tags and leave them behind. Sliding my two remaining suitcases along beside me, I start for the faraway sign showing me the way out. It is May 13, 2001. Finally, I am about to walk among the tall, shiny buildings that I have seen from the tiny window of the airplane. Slowly at first and then more quickly, I finish crossing the bridge to my new world."

2 comments:

  1. Lumi, your story is very moving. You are a light onto yourself. What you had crossed was not a bridge to a dream; it was a bridge to reality! That bridge was a reality, and so was what lay ahead on the other side of the bridge. Moments like these will forever remain with us in our consciousness and be an enriching element for our soul. Love to you and best wishes to you too, Shiao-Ping

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  2. Lumi,
    You showed great courge and determination.
    I salute you.

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