Posted on Friday, October 24, 2008
Gate one is now boarding. Forget the shoes, pick him up and let’s get this show on the road. He’s five years old woman, he’s not going to listen, and he would rather stick crayons up his nose than have to put his shoes on. So let it go, grant him this one small victory and let us all board the plane. Last call for passengers boarding flight FJ116 to Paris, please make your way to gate one as your plane is ready to board. This is not helping my anxiety one bit. Imagine if I’m seated next to this little shit. Impossible, no chance, the universe loves me too much to do that to me. Oh God, where’s my passport, I swear it was just here, please please please don’t tell me I’ve lost it. Side pocket, bingo. Ok, I’m good to go, please hurry up woman, this is getting ridiculous. The people behind me are becoming restless. I can feel them poking their heads out from the side of the line, trying to catch a glimpse of ‘good kids gone bad: season 3’. I don’t recall buying front row tickets for this tantrum of the century. Seriously kid, chill out, save your teary angst for your adolescence. I try to visualise my happy place…it’s late afternoon, the sun is about to set, I can feel the wind in my hair, I’m next to slow moving river when… “Excuse me Ma’am, may I please have your passport and boarding pass”…I open my eyes to see the plastic smile of the air hostess in front of me. The little shit is nowhere in sight and I sigh a breath of relief. “Enjoy your flight Ma’am”. Rock and roll, we have lift off.
Boarding the plane I smell one of my most favourite smells. It’s actually a combination of rather common smells, but when combined, leaves me gagging for more. Powdered coffee, refreshment towels and recycled air. In any other context, these smells would go unnoticed. But when in the context of a Boeing 747, these smells make me feel weightless and worry-free. If wanderlust could have a smell, this would be it. I breathe in deep, taking it all in as I look for the seat that will be mine for the next twenty-three hours. I casually scan my surrounds, checking out my fellow passengers and wondering if I get the aisle or the window seat. At this point, I’m not too fazed about either option. Wow, I’m actually on a plane to Paris. I would happily sit in the toilet the whole way just to prove a point about how excited I am. Or not. All these thoughts stream my mind when disaster strikes. Seat 46C. It’s an aisle seat. That’s fine. What’s not fine is that 46C is seated next to 46A and 46B. Incompetent mother and undiagnosed temper disorder child. The lord giveth and the lord taketh away. Why universe, why?
In an attempt to mask my bitter disappointment about my seating arrangements for the next twenty-three hours, I decide to introduce myself to Satan and his sidekick. “Hey guys! I’m Jules, what’s your name little man?” The kid shoots his dagger eyes at me and then turns to his mum and screams “I WANT MY PILLY!” “Darling, your pilly is in the big bag that we put underneath the plane, we’ll get him when we get to Paris honey, don’t worry”. Looking up at me the mother says “Don’t mind him, he’s just a little tired, he’ll settle down soon”. The idea of sitting out the flight in the toilet is not looking so bad anymore. I fake my best ‘that’s ok’ smile and take my ipod, my new book, and my journal out of my bag and place them in the seat pocket in front of me. I put my bag in the overhead locker and glance at the young guy sitting behind me. He gives me a sympathetic smile. He knows that he just won the seat lottery and no doubt feels my pain. And yet I want to punch him in the baby-maker for being lucky enough not to be seated next to the incarnation of Hitler. I take a deep breath in and sit down. Let it begin.
The emergency exits are located here, here, and here. For the first time I actually take notice of the closest exit to my seat. I figure that if my luck is bad enough to get seated here, then the odds of experiencing mid-air engine failure are quite high. Ensure you secure your oxygen mask first before securing the masks of young children. Amen to that. I clip together my seatbelt and prepare myself for take off. This is my favourite part. I close my eyes and centre myself. I listen to my breathing. I feel my heartbeat speed up. I ask myself ‘could you die happily now?’ The answer is always yes. I could die now with fulfillment and contentment with my life thus far. I take in every movement of the plane and every vibration. All the noises fall away around me and I hold my breath as the pressure builds in my chest. I say a silent prayer. Give me love. Bring me peace. Moments later we are in the air.
Looking down the aisle I see the food cart. I ponder what savoury delights are heading my way. Fingers crossed for some pasta or stir-fry creation. I think I need a wine. I feel particularly rattled and know that alcohol will settle my nerves. Alcohol and airplanes are like camembert and crackers. A match made in heaven. It always amazes me how quickly one can get intoxicated whilst in mid-air. High altitudes, thinning blood and alcoholic beverages: the perfect combination. The air hostess parks the food cart one centimeter away from my head. I can smell something fishy. “Ma’am, would you like tuna pasta or mushroom and pork omelet?” Is she serious? Is that seriously my only two options? Cat food or egg-fungi. I should have pretended I was vegetarian. “I’ll take the omelet thanks, and a large glass of red wine”. At least they had wine. Every dark cloud has a silver lining right? Or not. “Sorry Ma’am we only have white wine, ok?” Well no, not ok. For me, drinking white wine is the equivalent of snorting freshly ground pepper up one’s nose. It’s like instant hay fever in a glass. “Ok, well I’ll just have a beer then”. The little kid on my right is starring at me like I’m a leper. I know that look. It’s that look you give someone when they are being a pain in the arse. I think he may have learnt that look off me. I refrain from mashing his snotty little head into my omelet.
Dear universe, please deliver me patience and a good night of sleep. After our dinner has been taken away, I decide that it’s almost music and sleep time. But first it’s bathroom time. I undo my seatbelt and make my way to the back of the plane. There’s no one lining up. This is the highlight of my day. I pick the bathroom with the best feng shui and close the door behind me. It’s immaculately clean inside. It even smells nice. I make a mental note that this will be the bathroom I’ll use every time. I look at myself in the mirror. I am not wearing any make-up and my hair is a scruffy mess, but I look good. I have that glow about me that resonates from my eyes and in my cheeks. I am happy. I am deliriously happy. I lean in closer to my reflection and plant a kiss upon my own lips. This is what it’s all about.
Moments later I am settled back in my seat. To my surprise and delight, the little one is fast asleep. I study his sleeping face and the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he breathes. Maybe he’s not so bad after all. I reach for my ipod and know exactly what song I need to hear. I lean back into my seat and close my eyes. I am on…switched on…a sudden clearness and clarity…I’ve been waiting for you…in the Joiners Arms…you make my tongue loose…I am hopeful and stutter free. I think about the journey ahead. I am beside myself with disbelief. I am really on my way to Paris. Heat rises up in my stomach, a slow recoil and release of adrenalin. I fear that if I let my mind venture past this very moment, I may spontaneously combust with excitement and anticipation. I allow myself one brief thought; imagine when I get to look into his eyes once again. Head on my chest…a silent smile…a private kind of happiness. Everything sounds so far away and finally, I surrender to sleep.
I must be dreaming. I am standing in the middle of a swaying field of wheat. The wind pushes the uniform rows back and forth in a choreographed dance. There is no one else but me. I can hear the sounds of waves breaking in the distance and the smell of salt lingers in the air. I look up to see an upset sky washed in stormy grey. Lightening pulses on and off above. Drops of rain begin to fall and cling to my hair like silver beads. I leave my rain drenched clothes in a pile at my feet and raise my hands to the sky to wash me clean. I weave in and out of the rows of wheat, knowing somewhere close he is watching me. I can feel his eyes tracing my spine; he waits patiently as I take my time. I drop to my knees and my head hangs down, becoming one with the softened ground. Can he not see that I want to be found? He inches closer to me and is now at arms reach. Puddles begin to fill around our feet. We are tangled limbs and body heat. We are reddened chins and naked feet. We fit together now as one heartbeat. Suspended weightlessly in ecstasy. Giant proclamations are all very well…but our love…is louder than words. I fall out of my dream and into a deeper sleep.
I awake to find 46B staring amusedly at me. “What’s so funny kid?” I ask Satan’s little helper. “You talk in your sleep! Even Mummy heard you!” Oh God. I am instantly filled with fear that I yelled something out in my sleep. I can’t even remember what I was dreaming about. I only have an aftertaste of my dream. From what I can remember it was amazing. Thank you kind universe for giving me a dream like that. “You said the ‘F’ word in your sleep!”. Oh lordy. I feel my cheeks burn with red and I try my best to ignore him for fear of more public humiliation. Did I really scream that out?! Please don’t tell me that the entire plane just witnessed me have an orgasm in my sleep. I check the time and work out that we are past the half way mark of the flight. Let’s hope the second half isn’t as action packed as the first half. I stand up to go to the bathroom, but my left leg is still asleep. I try to shake out the pins and needles. “Dead leg! Dead Leg!” I am beginning to hate this kid. Children under ten should not be allowed on long-haul flights, period.
I make my way to my favourite feng shui-friendly bathroom. I try my hardest not punch a hole in the wall when I see the ‘occupied’ sign in red. Whoever is in my bathroom better leave it in pristine condition or I will be making an official complaint. Moments later, the young guy who was sitting behind me exits the cubicle. He has a smug look on his face. I instantly dislike him. “What’s up?” he asks in a playful voice. Is this guy trying to chat me up? In a world without consequence I would have urinated in my pants and drawn his attention to it. Two birds and one stone: his interest would automatically dwindle and my need to use the bathroom would be no more. “Not much man, just hoping to use the bathroom really” I respond through clenched teeth. We shuffle awkwardly around one another as I make my way to the door. “Well looks like you’ve already joined the mile high club, I heard ya back there sweetheart, squirming around in your seat!”. I slide the bathroom door closed and do my best to drown out his repulsive chuckle as he makes his way back down to his seat. This is humiliation at its greatest. I guess it could be worse. At least I still have my youth and my health. I scan the dimensions of the cubicle and wonder if it’s hygienic enough for me to spend the remainder of my flight here. I would do anything to be back in that field of wheat.
Swallowing my pride I make my way back to my seat. I keep my eyes to the ground in order to avoid any prospect of conversation. I hastily shove my headphones into my ears and pick up my book. I look back at all the dog-eared pages I have made. Each folded corner is a reminder for me to go back and re-read the words that necessitate re-reading. Sentences that not only connect with the reader, but hold them hostage. Words that are strung together so perfectly that you want them tattooed to your skin. Sentences that remind you that every object is in flux, the earth, time, concepts, love, life, faith…are all fluid and in transition. Sentences that sink in deeply to your core, and leave you feeling nauseatingly enlightened. With each word I read, I am able to drift away from this time and place. I read until my eyes feel as heavy as lead. You have always been connected to me...concealed, revealed…in the known…a strange passion is moving in my head…every moment is made glorious.
There is no worse way of getting woken up than by a not so subtle blow to the head. “Sorry Ma’am, I didn’t see you there! Would you care for some breakfast?”. I am speechless. My mouth is as desert and I am fairly sure the air hostess just rammed me in the head with the food cart. The pitfalls of the aisle seat. I agree to eat some powdered egg creation as she gleefully pours me a coffee. I swear she hates me. She hates me because I sleep so much when she can’t. She hates me because I’m on a plane to Paris while she heats up hand towels. Her paint-by-numbers smile does not fool me. Or perhaps I’m just reading into it. Since when do airlines serve cake for breakfast? I decide not to question it. I’ll have my cake and eat it too.
Good Morning passengers on flight FJ116 to Paris, this is your captain speaking, we are forty minutes ahead of schedule and will be touching down at approximately eleven-thirty am, the land temperature at the destination is twenty-five degrees and sunny. Since when are planes ever ahead of time? Again, I am not going to question it. In two hours time I will be in Paris. It is beginning to feel all too surreal. This flight has literally flown right by. I am nervous as hell. There is a hummingbird inside my chest. Perhaps I shouldn’t have had that last coffee. I am high off caffeine and new love. Somewhere in Paris he waits for me. I know him deeply but I hardly know what he looks like. I know his most intimate thoughts but I have not known him intimately. I know what makes him laugh but I have never heard his laugh. These are the thoughts that swim in circles around my mind.
“Did you know that playing music too loud will make you go deaf?”. Is this little kid for real? I want to ask him if he knows what an anti-christ is but I refrain. Instead, I smile gingerly at him whilst casually making a clock-wise semicircle with my right thumb on my ipod. I fear that my speakers will blow out, but I decide that it will only consolidate my point. I see his little oval shaped mouth moving, and yet I hear nothing. Every few seconds I nod politely and feign enthusiasm. This moment is nothing short of hilarious for me. I consider ever so briefly a future in stand up comedy. From this angle, the kid looks like he is belting out a Cure classic. This is faux karaoke at its best. There is definitely something ridiculously funny about a five year old miming the lyrics to ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. I decide that I am getting far too much enjoyment out of this moment and thus decide to turn my attention to my journal. I am in need of an entry.
October 25, 2008: An entry from 15 000 feet above. In less than one hours time I will be in Paris. I am more nervous than I thought. I can’t even let my mind go there. This flight will no doubt leave me looking haggard as hell. Thank god I booked a hotel room. I can’t wait to have a shower and wash my hair. I wonder what he is doing right now. I wonder if he is as nervous as I am. This is possibly the craziest thing I have done. Melbourne one day and then Paris the next. Amen to the credit card. What am I going to wear? Something effortless and sexy. Something effortlessly sexy. I’m thinking jeans and a top. Or maybe a dress and boots. I sound like I am fifteen again. I feel like I am fifteen again. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. One life right? Better make it as random and as memorable as possible. So do I kiss him on the cheek and give him a hug? Or do I just give him a hug? I should I do that thing that guys do, that half hug, half pat on the back thing? I think I’m over-thinking it. I just need to relax, breathe in and out, and go with the flow. I can’t believe we will actually get to share that bottle of red wine together. When something feels this good, it has to be right, right? I wonder if he knows just how much his words set me on fire.
I watch the air hostesses prepare the cabin for landing. They scuttle about like marching ants. They check lockers and collect rubbish. They re-check the same lockers and move their heads from left to right as they patrol the footrest of each passenger. Like dogs, children under five have a refined sixth sense and intuition when it comes to reading adults. They know instinctively when something is wrong. They are the thought police. I can feel his beady little eyes staring directly at me. I am paranoid that he is reading my thoughts. “Why are you going to Paris all by yourself?” he asks inquisitively. I consider the option of completely ignoring him but I am under the impression that this will only make things worse. “Well, I’m actually meeting someone who is living there at the moment”. I see him weigh this up in his mind. “Is it a boy or a girl?”. I feel like I am being interrogated. I decide to answer this as succinctly as possible. “A boy”. I swear my heart just missed a beat. “Is he your boyfriend?”. Another beat is missed. “Well, he is a friend of mine who is a boy, so yes; I guess you could call him my boyfriend”. He looks perplexed by this answer. I feel somewhat victorious. “Do you kiss him?”. And the ball goes back to his court. “No, I have never kissed him”. A smile lingers ever so slightly at the corners of my mouth. “Do you want to kiss him?”. With all my heart. “Sorry kid, question time is up, let’s get ready to land!”.
I have time for one last song. It has to be memorable and mark the occasion. It has to psyche me up without psyching me out. The silence surrounds you and holds you…I think I might have inhaled you…I can feel you behind my eyes….you’ve gotten into my bloodstream…I can feel you flowing in me. No longer will he sit in the shadows of my mind. I can now bring him to the surface and out into the light. I soften my clenched jaw as we make contact with the Parisian tarmac. We are now in the same sphere. The spaces in between two minds and all the places they have been. I know he knows I am here. There is sweetness in the air, as if rose petals have freshly fallen from the sky. My pupils dilate more and more with each inhaled breath. It feels as if I’ve stepped off the plane and into a dream.
When I arrive at the hotel I am weary eyed but still full of life. I drop my bags at the foot of the bed and fall face down on the king sized bed. The quilt smells like vanilla and sandalwood. I inhale this new scent deep into my lungs. I am really here. I am actually here in Paris. I laugh out loud. How ludicrous! Sitting up on the bed I scan my new environment. There really is something about five star hotels. I take in the luxury and decadence of the furnishings. Everything is cast out of black marble or rosewood. There are fresh white lilies on the bedside table. The widows open out on top of a quiet cobbled street. Below my balcony, butchers and fruiters go about their afternoon of trade. Scooters are lined up one by one along the side of the street. I can here the crackly radios of the cafes below. I listen to people chatting to each other in a language I am yet to master, and I smile at the thought of being a fish out of water. I check the bar fridge. Hallelujah, there is a decent selection of wine. Oh how I love the French. I check the time and it’s now past four pm. I chose the deepest and darkest looking red wine and pour myself a long awaited glass. Before I let the burgundy liquid hit my lips, I say a toast: here’s to all that is, and to all that has yet to be.
It is five o’clock by the time I finish my first glass of wine. I feel warm and limber. I unpack my clothing and put on a CD. The sounds of a soulful French woman fill the room. I can’t help but to wonder what she is singing about. Every word sounds painfully beautiful. I turn up the volume as I take a shower. Water spills out like crystal bullets onto the black marble tiles. Goosebumps form on my arms and legs as hot water creates rivers through my hair. I wash away every little thing that crept under my skin on the flight. I allow my worries to flow like bubbles down the drain. One by one, they all float away.
Weeks ago we agreed on a meeting place. It is a place so intrinsically Parisian and as iconic as a croissant or a baguette. We plan to meet beneath the southern face of the Eiffel Tower. I have played out this moment over and over inside my head. Each time I visualise it, it is different. This means that I have not a clue what to expect. For the first time in a long time, it is largely out of my hands. I feel a rising wave within my chest. I pour another glass of wine as I examine my reflection. The hot water has left red blotches all over my skin, like little heart-shaped islands on a map. These blotches run all the way from my shoulders and down along my back. I place my hands on my hips as I ponder what to wear. I wiggle on a pair of black jeans and black silk top. The silk swims across my skin like a fish. This is what I will wear. It was without effort. And I feel comfortably sexy. This is the closest I’ll ever be to being ‘effortlessly sexy’. I take a sip of wine and look at my clothed reflection. This is the Jules he will set his eyes on for the very first time.
I make my way down to the street below. The suited doorman gives me a friendly wink as I leave the hotel. This wordless gesture is an offering of good luck. I accept it from him and wear it like a charm around my neck. I get into the nearest available taxi and do my best to piece together my broken French for the driver. I sit back and take in all the history around me. Buildings are cracked like old bones and vines weave their way between the gaps like leafy veins. The sun is beginning to set and the sky looks like a fire. All shades of red, yellow, orange and grey light up the cityscape. I absorb all this beauty through some divine osmosis. My mind is as still as a lake. I don’t want to be anywhere else but here.
I fumble with all my Euro change and pay the driver. It’s not until he has driven off that I realise I thanked him in Italian. I’m sure he appreciated the ‘grazie’ in my Australian accent. I let it go as I am now here. I can see the lit up tower in all her glory. Tourists swarm around her four legs. The crowd is punctuated with bright flashes and mixed languages. My palms begin to sweat and the hummingbird is back inside my chest. I can feel him amongst this crowd. I stick my hands in the back pockets of my jeans as I make my way to the southern face. I am knocked from left to right as eager tourists snap the last of their shots before the sun completely sets. I remind myself that this moment will undoubtedly last a lifetime. I do my best to relax and enjoy each and every second in waiting. I look up at her southern face as she lights up a thousand bright lights in my name. I step backwards into a space amongst the crowd and wait patiently to be found. The wind is laced with the scent of red roses and whips my hair across my face.
Waves ascend within my core. The hummingbird slows down. I take one look into his eyes and know that I have been found. Stars fall from the night sky. He brings his lips to mine. I kiss his mouth as lovers words fall out.
I am nowhere else but here.