Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Prelude to a Flight

He said "Let's get out of this country!" as we entered Newark International. His voice was tired, lightly laced with excitement and what I'd come to think of as his own version of fear.

We walked hand in hand to the appropriate international departure line, him in Travel Mode, me just realizing I was actually leaving the country. We were in the International Terminal, for Pete's sake. I'd never been in the International Terminal.

Our backpacks made us slouch. We were still groggy, tired from going to bed too late after spending a majority of the evening packing, and then getting up at four to make our early flight. I crumbled beneath the weight of the gray and yellow backpack, shifting my weight from one pink flat shoe to the other. My stomach twisted and turned, lurched and settled over and over again. I was excited. I was nervous. And I was a little afraid.

I wasn't afraid of the flight, or the prospect of ten days alone with Billy, or even the idea that I'd be backpacking in some foreign country. I was afraid I'd wreck it. A month's worth of exaggerated complaints rang in my ears as we watched one person after another get called to check in. I heard myself jokingly complaining about not wearing heels, not wearing makeup, carrying a backpack. I belatedly hoped he hadn't taken me seriously. I eyed him, as he dug his passport from the smaller of the two backpacks he was carrying, worried that he was worried about bringing me. I searched his preoccupied face for signs that he was scared, too: Scared that I'd be a pain in the ass to travel with. I stood up on my tippy-toes and gave him a kiss on the cheek. I smiled, wide and genuine. "I'm so excited," I said, like a kid on the brink of a trip to Disney. He smiled back. "Me, too, baby."

But I was unsatisfied with that. I felt like we were staring into the obvious, both finally acknowledging that I was completely out of my element. I looked down at my flat shoes, shifted my weight again.

He'd been reassuring me for weeks: "Don't worry, you'll love it. It'll be great. Give it a chance. You are going to have a great time." And, looking at him there, in the early-morning bustle of Newark, he looked just plain worn out. Tired of telling me it would be okay, that we'd have a great time - Like, instead of him convincing me of the awesome experience I was about to have, it turned out the other way around: I'd convinced him of my inability to adjust.

In line, silently, I chastised myself for complaining, for worrying out loud, for expressing my concerns, and acting nervous instead of excited for the past few weeks. "Hope you're happy," my Inner Kill Joy said to my Inner Weakling, "because now, I bet you he's sorry he asked you in the first place."

"You're probably right," my Inner Weakling sighed, just as she began to sulk.

But I was excited, now that we were actually standing in line there, my virginal passport sitting in my sweaty palm. Packing and traveling always stresses me out, never mind when I'm not working with excess suitcase space. I can never decide what to bring, picturing myself four days from that moment, longing for the tank top that I decided to leave out in order to take an extra pair of shoes. I can't make decisions, period: I'm the girl that stands in the shampoo aisle forever, endlessly reading and rereading the false promises and prices on two select bottles before finally taking one just to get myself out of Wal Mart. I didn't have those options, though, on this trip. Billy gave me a list: Two pairs of shoes, two pants, three skirts, seven shirts, bras, panties, bathing suits. I packed three pairs of shoes. I snuck in an extra skirt. And one more shirt just for good measure. But I still had room in my backpack. It wasn't as bad as I thought.

"I can't believe we're actually going," I said to Billy, grabbing his long arm with both of my hands and squeezing. "I am so excited."

"Me too." He kissed my forehead. But I felt like he was nervous. Like, in his head he was saying Calm down, it's okay. It'll be fun. She won't be difficult. She won't be a pain in the ass. It's okay. You didn't make a mistake in asking her...God. I wish I was alone.

"Well," my Inner Weakling said, mustering her strength in the eleventh hour, "it doesn't matter because you're here now, and you're going. And you know you're going to be fun to be with, and you're going to have a great time, and YOU know you're not going to complain. He's probably just stressed about travel. Don't worry about it. Enjoy yourself and for once don't over analyze everything. God. You drive ME crazy. And I'm part of you."

My Inner Kill Joy nodded. "She's right. Shut up."

"I can take the next passenger," the Continental agent at the end of the line said, beckoning us with a curl of his fingers.

The tension around Billy seemed to lift. As we started to walk, he grabbed my hand, smiled at me. "You ready?"

I was.


portuguesa nova said...

Yay! You're back!

Oh man, with how much flying blows these days it is so easy to forget how beautiful the words "I can take the next person" are coming from the people behind the desk at check-in.

Cheetarah1980 said...

I absolutely love your 1st person narratives. You tell a story like none other.