Saturday, June 18, 2011

Long day to Lisboa

The other passengers are looking pulled and sticky as chewing gum, the departure time ticking ahead another half hour, already two hours delayed.

It's nearly midnight and Wok & Roll is closed, as is the Mexican bar and the pizza place, no choice but McDonald's if you need something to eat, even the tiny newsstand's shutters rolled down.

I've found a place to plug in, but one person after another tries to follow suit, only to slump away in defeat when the socket won't hold the plug. It slips out, limp and ineffectual as all of us, blinking slowly at the overhead lights in the Newark Airport international terminal.

A slim blond woman's face turns red and she knocks her head against her husband's shoulder, she can't keep up that raging, scary smile, her eyes tear up and she hangs against his body.

We believe we can see the future. I can say I'm going to Portugal and I'll be back in July, but this morning as the plane took off and taxied out to shine us a view of San Francisco, there the Bay Bridge, there the Golden Gate, as it shuddered higher into the sky, my certainty shuddered too, the long rubber band of the round trip not as robust as it seemed when I bought my tickets.

Maybe this will be my last view of her face, my San Francisco, who's to say, there are a thousand slips possible between now and then.

Just when I believe I might never leave Newark Airport, we are boarding the plane at last. I can see a crew scrubbing the underside of another airliner, flood lights shining up their high visibility suits, and they are absurd and graceful as giraffes. I want to wave at them as we pull away.

There's no sleep for me, though my neighbors sprawl across each other's laps, blocking me against my window for the duration as my bladder swells and we hurry into the sunrise, it's already tomorrow, although my body believes in one long today, brain too buzzed to read, it's guilty episodes of House until we land.

I want to cry with relief in the airport bathroom, a heroic torrent of pee to mark my arrival in Lisbon, Lisboa, Portugal at last, I've dreamed of Portugal for twenty years and more.

My sleepless brain is too foggy to register the grandeur of the moment. The passport agent looks at me like I'm a strange animal, his English is perfect, and I've misunderstood him perfectly. You must be tired, he offers, and my laugh is helium high.

But I am here. I am here. My roommate is disappointed with our one-night hotel, and it does smell of piss in the hallways, but our doors open onto tiny balconies and I can look down at the fashionable shoppers in Chiado, could work a loogie into my mouth and let it drop onto a casually coiffed head if I wanted.

The internet cafe just down the cobblestone street serves gazpacho and vinho verde, and I write looking over a courtyard, and every fourth person smokes, and the blue tiles on the building across the yard are more beautiful than I'd imagined.


sage said...

I've seen you once in 15 or 20 years, too long anyway, and I miss you because you're farther away than I can drive. I smile and get teary thinking about you being in Portugal, looking out your balcony.

Chemical Billy said...

Too long, Sage, and the once was too short. I made it to Portugal; maybe I can make it to your doorstep one day...