The following is Part 2 of 5. Read Part 1 Here. The other parts to follow over the next week or so.
Perhaps, with my words, I may assist other non-travelers in their own journeys. Or perhaps not.
Only by reading, and heeding, will you find out.
The second leg – The long leg.
There was 13 hours of flying ahead of me. The longest I’d ever been on an airplane in my life. Trapped. Enclosed. Essentially immobile. The longest I’ve been away from a ‘safe’ restroom. There was no other option, so I made my peace.
I had been told by my more well-traveled friends to seek an aisle seat.
They had advised me that this vaunted position facilitated one’s ability to stave off those pesky DVTs as well as future emboli, and further allowed easy egress for restroom breaks when one’s bladder or bowels forced the issue. Which was a certainty in the next 13 hours.
Unfortunately for me, it was not to be.
Madame Fortune would not gaze lovingly down upon my countenance with her soft, chocolate eyes, bathing me in the deep love and compassion she carried safely in her soul for a novice traveler like myself.
Having had no hand in the booking process or setting up the flight ticket, I had no prior ability to choose my seat. In fact, there wasn’t even an option to complete an online check-in or even to upgrade seats, if I were inclined to live large and make it rain.
My boarding pass didn’t lie. 52A. Another window seat. Just like the flight before, but this one for 13 hours. Ugh.
I found my seat and organized my carry on items. The plane filled up quickly, the crew brisk and efficient, as though they had done this before many times. The two seats beside me remained empty.
No one was coming my way…
That deep, secret feeling of joy welled up inside me. I let myself revel in it, just a little. I didn’t want to get carried away, let that feeling grow too big only to be crushed later.
Could it be? Could I have the whole row to myself?
As you likely guessed, I did not.
All the seats filled up. Including the two formerly empty ones beside me. Good thing I was smart enough not to let myself feel too much joy earlier. It would have been devastating. It’s much easier to have not had than to have had then had taken away. At least this way, it was only mildly disappointing.
Pinned against the window seat, knowing that for 13 hours every time I required an exit, I would be disturbing the people beside me, I settled in. It was what it was. In the end, we were 30,000 feet in the sky, traveling to the other side of the world.
Still fucking amazing. Every single time.
With that thought, I wrapped up my neck in my brand-new, bright red sleep supporting choker that my good friend Rumu had ordered for me using her magical Amazon Prime, and shut my eyes.
To my new seat mates, it probably looked like there was some element of auto-erotic asphyxiation as I looped that band tightly around my throat, barely cutting off the air supply, achieving that nice fuzzy light headedness we all enjoy a little, sometimes.
With a content smile softly settling on the chapped, cracked corners of my mouth, the result of failed hydration attempts with Coke Zero, I shut my eyes and thought to myself how this device was working exactly as promised, much better than those useless U-shaped neck pillows.
The weariness and stress of international travel, the ever-present fear of missing flights, and the insanely early morning wake-up to check and double check everything before the journey departure finally caught up to me.
Respite. My eyelids heavy, I let them fall, turned off my mind, and slept.
I woke up well-refreshed with absolutely no neck stiffness or pain thanks to the fancy neck pillow, brought to consciousness by the low rumble of the meal carts being pushed through the narrow aisles. Clickity-clack. The timing was impeccable, as on my awakening my belly rumbled in hunger. The effect of missed sour patch kids, for sure.
I could make out the quiet, hushed tones of the flight attendants asking the passengers for their choice of meal.
“Would you like the chicken or the salmon?”
As the flight attendant arrived at our row, she spoke in Chinese to the couple beside me. They responded in kind and both received their trays. They were having the salmon. It was my turn now. I looked up at her, my still cracked-mouth already forming the words, but she cut me off before I even had a chance.
It’s like she knew. But she actually didn’t.
“We only have the salmon left”
I broke a little. The tiniest of cracks inside my fortress deep and mighty, to match those on my parched lips.
I don’t like seafood. At all. In any way. In any style. Any type. No you can’t convince me otherwise. Just like everyone tries.
Something strange happened. It’s was as though I didn’t understand her, an epic misunderstanding. Panic welled up inside and spilled out of me, coating my words in their thick, tell-tale grime. It was quite embarrassing really.
“I’ll have the chicken.”
“No sir, we only have the fish left.”
“So there’s no more chicken?”
My voice had risen a few octaves. The panic even more apparent, more viscous. She looked at me with those knowing eyes. Compassionate, but firm.
“No sir, we only have salmon left, do you want salmon?”
“No thank you. Are you sure there’s no more chicken?”
It didn’t compute. I couldn’t fathom, couldn’t comprehend. The fog, unshakeable. How could it be? I shook my head. How could this happen? How could this happen, to me?
“Sorry sir, but there’s only the fish.”
Our eyes met again, mine defeated and broken, hers with kindness masking the exasperation of having to deal with flight passengers on a regular basis, with their problems and concerns and demands.
She handed me the tray, minus the fish entrée.
There was a chick pea and carrot salad. A soft, warm bun with a nice side pat of butter beside it and a small piece of cake to round it out. There on the bottom right corner of the platter was the empty rectangle of what could have been my chicken and rice. My entrée. Desired but unattainable. The curse of the sour patch kids had struck again.
My eyes affixed on that void, where my chicken should have been.
It was not to be.
This was the first big lesson. Adapt.
Life has a way of teaching you that things won’t always go your way. There are circumstance beyond your control. Roll with them. Take the punches in your face. Absorb them. You were never that pretty to begin with. Not pretty enough for the chicken. Make the best of what you got. With that in mind, I steeled myself for the hunger, that empty burning in the pit of my belly.
Sometimes, you just have to extend your intermittent fast.