The broken brown seat in front of me seemed to be getting dirtier by the second. The white walls were starting to close in on me as my eyelids grew heavy… are the walls dirty too? I awoke from a nap that felt like hours had passed. But it was still only 3:15 a.m. A man wearing a pill grey tuxedo had been struggling with his luggage for the past 5 minutes. He had a short stubby white beard and looked to be around sixty years old. He took the seat next to the broken one as he coughed into an ashy silk handkerchief which he stuffed back into his left tuxedo pocket; the one near his heart. Every second passed by slower than the last. I tried to get out of my seat but fell back down. My legs were too numb from sitting in this plastic seat for so long.
I arrived in Turkey at 10:30 p.m. that day. All I wanted was to reach my beautiful country. I couldn’t wait to see the never ending view of green mountains, or the get stuck in traffic with a hundred motorcycles cutting in front of cars that have no respect for red lights.
This was my last flight before I would finally reach Lebanon. All I could do was imagine how my cousins would be waiting in the airport; all dressed up and excited to see me. I’d been counting down the seconds ever since I boarded the plane in Canada.
A line of men and women wearing scarlet uniforms walked straight up to gate C. They all had triangular hats on. The women were wearing knee-high skirts with fancy white shirts under their blazers. They all had black and white striped silk scarves neatly folded around their necks and tucked under the rim of the jacket. The men were wearing red dress pants and most of them were holding their blazer hanging over their shoulders, covering the back of their white dress shirts. Just then a sudden realization washed upon me. They’re flight attendants! I thought. An involuntary sigh of relief escaped my mouth as they began boarding the plane.
Thirty more minutes passed as I stared at the large clock. The minute hand wouldn’t move. It was mocking me as the second hand took its sweet time visiting the numbers one by one, and then staying for a cup of coffee. My eyelids were growing even heavier than before when suddenly the speakers came on.
“All passengers boarding the plane to Beirut, Lebanon please proceed to gate L. Thank you.”
What! Gate L? That’s two floors up! I thought, in disbelief.
I quickly got up but my legs wouldn’t respond. I hit my feet against the ground to wake them up until my nerves started to tingle like a thousand pin pricks. I pulled myself up and dragged each foot up the four flights of stairs and through the long hallways of the airport. I was determined to catch up with the other passengers who were already a few minutes ahead of me. Struggling with my luggage, I stepped onto the flat escalator and just stood there leaning against the cold metal bar which pulled against my shirt while the escalator moved. It wasn’t until then that I understood their purpose. I wanted to thank the genius who had declared, “Put escalators on both sides of the hallway for people whose legs fall asleep from sitting for long periods of time.” I may have missed my flight if it wasn’t for that genius.
I finally boarded the plane after showing my passport and ticket to the people at the gate. The plane was so overwhelmingly crowded and loud that I tripped over some lady’s bag. She looked me up and down and scanned every inch of my body before finally looking me in the eyes. It felt as if she had stripped me of my dignity as she snapped, “Watch where you walk! Are you blind? Don’t your feet know how to stop before they trample over every damned thing in their way? Don’t you…” She kept going on and on about how my feet needed walking lessons and how she had some precious item in her purse that I could’ve broke. I yawned several times before she was finally done. Blurting out an apology, I almost flew to my seat.
I’ve only actually travelled twice before and I had my parents and siblings with me both times. This was my first trip alone and all I could think was, never again. These flights seemed to never end. As I sunk exhaustedly into my seat, purse still in hand, a lady pushed by and sat next to me. She’d only been there for a few seconds and I could already feel her eyes on me. “You’re married right?” She inquired.
Well that’s some way to start a conversation, I thought as I glanced at her then back at my phone. “No, I’m not. Why would you think that?” I asked.
“Well you look old enough. Never mind then. Move over. I’ll be back.” She answered as she pushed by me to get to the isle.
Rolling my eyes I thought, this is going to be a long flight.
The flight attendants came over and checked the top storages as the seatbelt light flickered on. I pulled the thick belt across my waist and strapped myself in as the flight attendant beside me fought with those top storage bin area things – do they even have a name? She was pushing the compartment door so hard she almost fell on me. A lanky male flight attendant came to help her and eventually everyone was in their seats; everyone except the lady who sat beside me.
Just then someone came out of nowhere and put a baby my arms. I looked up and the lady had returned. Only then did I take in her features. Her arms seemed to sag in all the wrong places while the rest of her body was slim. She had a fairly large stomach but was wearing a salmon coloured tank top with a wide grey belt on top, so it was camouflaged. Her hair was cut up to her ears and seemed to be suffocating from the amount of mousse she had in it. That poor brown, blonde streaked hair was crying for help. My eyes slowly travelled down to her face. Her saggy cheeks were losing the effects of the Botox she so clearly used to have. They were smeared with blush down to her jaw line. Her eyelids were full of blue eye shadow and she had the thickest eyeliner on, maybe her hand shook when she was putting it on. And then there was the red lipstick. The red lipstick made her look like a vampire who had just feasted on a succulent neck of blood. Her tanned arms flailed in the air as she demanded, “Hold the child!”
Wide eyed I hastily asked, “Wait, whose child is this? What am I supposed to do with her? Why are you giving her to me?”
Without a word, she glanced away and left, ignoring me. The biggest tear-filled brown eyes were staring at me. I stared back at the child. This tiny girl looked just as confused as I felt. “Don’t worry,” I reassured myself more than the child, “she’ll be back.”
Hopefully, I thought.
By Fatima Al-Sayed