Wish you were here?
Written on the plane, somewhere over the arctic (Oct. 3, 2011)
Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves. I wear mine on my face, in red streaks and blotches on my cheeks to match my puffy eyes.
After my dad drops me at customs a woman way too cheerful to be heading on a 4am business trip offers a hug. The US customs agent is too informal and I wonder if this is part of some kind of empathy training for dealing with emotionally fragile travelers. For people with Homeland Insecurity. She stamps my passport and waves me away with a “Have fun, girl!”
As we wait to subject ourselves to the humiliation of airport security, the Texan in front of me asks if it’s my first time flying. It’s not. Nor is it the first time I’ve killed time swaying from one foot to the other in the magazine store struggling to read fashion magazines through eyes blurry from tears. I’m overtired and anxious. Last night I slept from 12:30 til 3:15. I didn’t fare much better the night before, wandering around Toronto with a hot messy troupe of neon marauders, not so much seeing the art at Nuit Blanche as continually finding and losing each other in the crowds of grownup kids out past their bedtimes.
So here I am with my heart on my face, getting used to the stares from my Chinese fellow passengers, en route to Hong Kong. Veggie meal down the hatch: limp asparagus, greasy homefries and a bowl of something that was either drippy jam or cold berry soup. Now might be a good time to pop a Morcom Zithroflax – my fake medical name for the little blue sleeping pills I took from my grandmother. I’m heading to Sydney, Australia with a few days in Hong Kong to break up the flight. This leg is fifteen hours, plus the flight to JFK and the roughly four hours spent in airports. And my sojourn down under will be a year, give or take. It’s wide open.
I am thirty, unmoored, and open to change. The milestone birthday this summer signalled that, insofar as I have not met the conventional deadline for achieving the triumvirate of husband-house-career, all bets are off! It is a liberating feeling.
I’m taking this trip for myself, but in a way I feel like I am taking it for the friends and relatives who are tied down by their mortgages, spouses, routines and fear. All these people living vicariously through me, asking what my plans are, telling me how courageous it is to leave the status quo and the trappings of my conventional Toronto life behind.
Does courage feel like burning eyeballs and a sore lumbar?