Monday, August 17, 2009

Rued Awakening: Homeward Bound

I've spent hours packing my one carry-on suitcase and "handbag" (translation: second suitcase). Weeks ago I sent home a skirt and a top with A. I've used up most of my allowable 3-ounce containers of shampoo, lotions, and miscellaneous liquids and creams. I'm leaving a shirt and a tote bag (along with a tip) for the woman who cleans the room. I should have plenty of room.

After all, I haven't purchased too much: four thin paperback books of cartoons by Alex; a straw mask; two smallish primitive paintings; two ex-votos (one tiny, the other notebook-paper size); four small woven cosmetic bags with floral or geometric designs; a six-strand stone bracelet that's already fallen apart; three bottles of the indispensable Tajin, a mixture of salt, chili, and lime that will last me for a year and that I will sprinkle on virtually everything that's destined for my mouth, from soup to nuts to fruit to ice cream; a small bag of habas enchiladas to munch on the plane, in the airport, or at home (should it last that long). Oh, and there's the book of revolutionary poems that I was given for dancing, to the sounds of a live band, in the plaza in front of a subway station. I'm using every bit of available space to squeeze everything in and, if the bags don't burst, everything will fit.

I try to sleep, but what's the point? I've asked the hotel desk clerk to call a cab and to call me at 3:00 a.m. I'm not sure that he'll do either, so I close my eyes at 1:30 and open them every 15 minutes. I'm not ready to go home but I don't want to miss the plane.

At 3:00 the phone rings. I pop out of bed and answer. No answer.

A quick wash-up. I'm as ready as I'll ever be at such an ungodly, unhumanly hour. I try calling the desk four or five times to get help taking my luggage downstairs, as the hotel elevator hasn't been operating for the last week. No answer, no luck, no dice, no help.

I lug and tug everything down four interminably long flights of stairs. The lobby is deserted, except for the clerk and the taxi driver, who were obviously and obliviously snoozing.

The streets are dark, eerie, and uncharacteristically silent. The cabbie delivers me to the airport quickly and easily.

It is 4:20. My flight leaves at 7:30 am. Even the airline folks are still sleeping. It's too early to do anything else.

I figure that I'd better get something to eat now or I'll have to settle for bags of salty peanuts until I arrive home late this afternoon. I lug and tug my baggage and myself up a flight of stairs to have the worst meal I've not enjoyed since I left the US: tiny cubes of salt, seasoned with freeze-dried potatoes; ice-cold fried eggs; and refried, untried beans on what might pass for a tortilla -- if you are a lover of cardboard with an "off" taste.

On the first leg of my journey home, I am leg to leg with a handsome young man who spends the entire flight picking at his face and neck, staring at the slim or thick pickings, and popping them into his mouth. I am nauseous and look forward to upchucking on him. Unfortunately, I don't.

The flight from Atlanta to Richmond is uneventful by comparison.

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