I say it all of the time, but I really do hate flying. I hit a moment of terror before jetting off on my trip to Australia where I got scared shitless and my heart started racing and I had to talk myself down.
It isn’t the fear of the unknown either. I was excited to get there, and I wanted to go back desperately. I hate the thought of being stuck on a plane for 13 hours.
I’ve never been a classy flier either. Obviously first class in the back is more my style. But I already looked rough after my flight to LA. I’ve never understood how people look decent or even semi-decent after any plane ride. I always look like I’ve been sleep deprived for weeks after a mere two hours in the air.
I was talking to my cousin on the phone during my layover in LA. She wished me well and said she hoped I sat next to a cute Australian man on the plane. While a plane seems an ideal place for me to meet someone, my anxiety ridden, sickly looking self is not at its best then, and I secretly hoped she was wrong.
I was getting settled when a beautiful man walked down the aisle, said hello in his Aussie accent, and I melted.
But it turns out he was just putting his bag up and then sitting across the way, the girl next to him jumping on the opportunity to chat him up.
I searched frantically for my Valium, which only induced more stress in me thinking I’d left my bottle on the kitchen counter. I found it in a weird pocket of my bag, chalked it up to a miracle, took one, and strapped in for the 13 hour flight.
I was in and out of sleep for most of it. Calm enough to rest, not comfortable enough to sleep well. But I hadn’t slept much the night before on purpose so I’d be exhausted and hopefully the time would pass quickly.
When I hit the mark of 4 hours left, I went to the bathroom to freshen up, looked in the mirror and felt sorry for the man sitting next to me. I don’t know how I manage to have the face of a two dollar prostitute when I wake up on a plane, but it definitely happens, makeup smeared everywhere, eyes bloodshot, hair looking vile and greasy.
I wonder how I ever make it through customs looking like this. They must wonder how a homeless person bought such an expensive plane ticket when I roll up with my passport.
The anomaly is I can fall asleep on my couch with a full face of makeup and my hair up and looks semi-presentable if I need to run out the door. I don’t want to get into how that is a fact I know about myself, but it’s been tested on multiple occasions.
But on a plane I, without fail, wake up looking scary and trollish.
I can’t actually figure out how people emerge from the plane looking like they just took a refreshing nap.
We landed in Brisbane, and I waited to get through customs, where they are now advanced enough to take a picture of you that has to match your passport in order for you to enter the country. After getting rejected twice by the machine, I looked at the woman and almost said, “the jokes on you if you think I would ever leave my home looking this rough on a normal day,” but I didn’t want to get kicked out before I’d even started.
So for the third try, the woman said, why don’t you take your hair down. It needs to be as close to your picture as possible. I wanted to scream, “Look at me and look at my picture—it wasn’t that long ago. Plus obviously I’m a grease ball, so there’s clearly nothing I’d like to do more than take my mangled rat’s nest of a messy bun out so I can look as ridiculous as humanly possible.”
Instead I forced an awkward smile and said, “Sounds like a plan.” I smoothed my greasy mane down in front of the camera and put on the same smile from my picture.
I finally made it through, grabbed my bags, and then went to grab a cab looking rough.
A guy looked at me lugging two suitcases, my carry on, and my handbag and said, “Darling. Let me take one of those for you.”
I handed it over. I remembered. It was all coming back.
I lived in Australia for a long time before I learned to trust people. They aren’t out to get you. I always think people are. But in this alternate universe of a country they genuinely want to help.
I’m not good at trusting people. I assume there are always strings attached, people have hidden motives, and people are out to get you, so if you don’t use your head you’ll probably get taken advantage of. So falling in love with a place where I found people helpful and trustworthy was a lot for me to swallow the first time. I realized that I had forgotten what that felt like.
Seven years had passed, and I once again entered this place with my walls built up again. Until I set foot in Brisbane, that man offered to take my suitcase even though I looked a fright, and I said OK without hesitation, feeling a sense of relief as the walls came crumbling down around me in seconds.
No questions. No nothing. Just a wholehearted thank you from me as I handed him a suitcase.
That’s the thing. I’ve changed a lot in the time I’ve been gone but it all comes flooding back quickly. It’s like muscle memory that my heart has retained after all this time. I knew it would be different, but I was ready to reacquaint myself with the place that I loved so much.