The Final Chapter

Illustration by Anthony Mata/The Guardsman

By Mckenna Toston

The Guardsman

San Francisco is like a ghost town. Dreary and desolate. I feel like I’m in a post-apocalyptic city where nobody knows each other.

Why are the streets so empty? How can a bus filled with people be so silent? Why is prolonged eye contact socially unacceptable? How come starting friendly conversation is like pulling teeth?

Nothing makes sense here.

In India, I was everyone’s sister, or didi. I never needed to knock or ask permission to enter. I felt the embrace of family wherever I went, and it filled my heart with an indescribable warmth.

It’s like we’re afraid of each other here, or have stiff necks and don’t feel like talking. Or maybe we just don’t get enough sun.

Whatever it is, I don’t like it.

I want the warmth back. The communion and vitality. I want to bump shoulders with strangers and not need to apologize.

But if India taught me anything, it’s to make the most of what I have. And right now, in addition to depression, I have infinite opportunities. And the determination to seize them.

While it’s certainly tempting to go back to Kolkata, marry Sonu, and live the rest of my life in India. I have to remember that I’m being idealistic. I know I wouldn’t be happy. At least not for long.

I’ve decided to suppress my desire to go back, in hopes that it will eventually fade.

I’m ready to get serious about school and start working toward graduation. India was certainly an educational experience, especially for an aspiring journalist, but it didn’t get me much closer to a degree.

School will give me the skills necessary to accurately report spot news. The skills I need to be a good reporter—the voice of the otherwise voiceless.

I recently had the opportunity to interview LA Times crisis reporter Mark Magnier. He told me of a time he slept under bridges in Iraq during the violent reign of Saddam Hussein–all in the name of the news.

Call me crazy, but there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

Next time I travel, it will be to a war zone. I’ve dreamt of being a war reporter for years, and I’m ready to make it happen. I don’t want to waste any more time.

It will take an immense amount of courage and drive. But after tackling a three-month solo trip to India–I know I can do anything.

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