According to my calculations, our noon departure on Wednesday would evolve into a 20 hour wormhole passage through time, landing us in Manila on Thursday, at 8pm. By Hawai’i standards it should have been only 10pm on Wednesday. Where do those 20 hours go?
When traveling to Asia, I always wonder about that day we relinquish to Icarus, to be held in reserve until our return: What happens to it?
And what, I wonder, of the people who never return, who travel west across the International Date Line and stay there? They have been robbed of that Thursday, never to have the opportunity to live it. How do they feel? How does one compensate?
This I ponder as I glance around the cabin, my eyes occasionally drifting away from my Lapham’s Quarterly as the siren song of my bottle of Ativan, secured in the overhead bin above me, sings its sweet promise of tranquility.
There are two screaming demons here in the rear section of Economy. When one of these obnoxious crying monsters finally stops shrieking the other one kicks in.
There’s also a New Zealander in the seat behind me, a veritable Chatty Charlie who has so many droll anecdotes and opinions to relate to the woman seated beside him that he scarcely has time to take a breath between clauses.
Me, I’m holding out. I’ve left the Ativan up top in my backpack since we got on the plane. That’s over two hours now.
Who says I’m not a man of faith.
After a hurried initial drink service, the flight attendants move swiftly through the aisles of Economy (I call it “cozy class”) grabbing up cups and snack wrappers. Everyone complies, apparently satisfied with their partial serving of pineapple juice or mass market chardonnay.
Not I. I am on a 20-hour odyssey to visit the land and family of my husband. To meet my in-laws for the first time. Nay, his mother, turns 70 this year. Tay, his father, learned a few weeks ago that the one his son has been living with for eight years is a man. Still, I have forgone my Ativan despite this and the raucous, romper room air cabin. I will not, however, forgo a full round of drinks.
After a momentary auditory reprieve, and the insertion of earplugs, the godless shrieking begins anew. The kiwi behind me continues to runneth over. I remain distracted by the weak pour in round one. I stew – a hungry tiger tossed a lousy strip of jerky. Soon, the kindly flight attendants drag odorous food carts up the aisles into a different time zone as I nurse the last precious drops in my cup. Bewildered am I. And a little bit pissed.
Arvin, unmolested by the noisy goings-on in the cabin, watches some droll, manufactured star vehicle of a film on the portable device he rented. (If he’s ambient Tephlon, I’m a big, unwittingly thirsty sponge.) There’s an entire roster of recognizable names – Oscar winners among them – in this derailment of a film. It’s so awful I can’t help but look over every once in a while. Like surgery. Or a motorcycle accident. The film is filled with white-toothed pretty teenagers and happy heterosexual couples frequenting fertility clinics – a star-studded monument to absolute nothingness. It seems the entire 90 minute rot is designed to provide the starlet with an endless series of contractually-mandated ‘perfection shots’, in which she looks angelic and divine while the poor mortals sharing credits with her live out their lives in second-hand banality and the cheapness of bad lighting.
Now where was I?
I was about to chastise my neighbors for sitting by in idle submission as their empty drinks cups were taken away by flight attendants who are hurrying – on a 10 hour flight? – to serve and clear, serve and clear, serve and clear, as if we had somewhere to get to in such a hurry. I think 10 hours and 39 minutes is more than sufficient to casually dole out a few drinks and some implausible cinematic scenarios. Why not let us linger?
Just as these ruminations stirred in my mind, and as the Ativan in the overhead called out softly “Jeffrey… Jeffrey…”, the aisle became suddenly filled with drinks carts. A veritable riot of them. There was liquor to be had – seconds even! Thirds, by the time dinner arrived.
Rapture. Hallelujah. It was bliss.
Those horrible crying children aside.
Do as I say, not as I—.
Six hours remained. After some negotiation with the flight attendants, Arvin and I relocated to an empty deuce in an exit row (how is this even possible that they’re empty?), far from the chattering New Zealander and his female neighbor, she who announced that she would prefer to keep her window shade open throughout the flight. This in spite of the fact that it was still daylight out there and most of the passengers wanted to pursue a vampiric sleep instead of bad cinema and idle chatter.
We lug our carry-ons, blankets, pillows and accoutrements ten rows forward. I pop the lid of my happy stash: it’s Ativan time.
Three glasses of wine and a pill, and sleep descended up on me like a whirl of angels. It helped that we could stretch our legs. Five hours pass and we awake to clanking glassware, rattling carts, and the frequent slamming of the toilet door.
As the plane begins its descent along with the sunset, eastern islands come into view. Pale clouds suggest a sentimentality which is quickly traded in for a dense, overhead urban view as the principal island of the Philippines, Luzon, and its metropolis emerge.
Wait, wait, this is too fast. I’m not ready yet.
Land of 7,107 islands – at low tide
The Philippines is a nation of 7,107 islands, some of which disappear under water at high tide. It seems a metaphor worth hanging onto.
Nighttime in the Philippines is here – the plane has landed – and with it the surrender of all expectation. My brain, as well as my eyes, will simply have to adjust.