A few days ago, I flew home from Bangkok after finding out my lovely man has a tumour in his eye.
You may have had one of these experiences in your life, the kind that catapults you into love and clarity (it reminds me, now, of childbirth), not to mention instant intimacy with the Thai cab driver, the woman at the check-in counter at Cathay Pacific, cashiers at the grocery store, and on and on.
Two of these intimacies were enough to wake me up in the middle of the night to write this.
On the packed flight from Hong Kong to Toronto, I sat beside a woman whose face I never really looked at, because looking at anyone’s face made me cry. She didn’t speak English. I helped her with her seatbelt at some point and she did what I’d done in Bangkok for three days: she grunted, mumbled, and nodded her head.
We sat beside each other for something like 15 hours, during which I started to cry (silently, I hope, though why I give a damn, I don’t know) perhaps 15 times. The third or fourth time in, she patted my thigh and passed me a piece of gum. Gum. It was one of those disgusting flavours that turn my stomach: fruity, maybe fake strawberry, with an explosive, liquid centre. Horrifying.
I chewed it till it was cardboard, and in the three minutes it took, I fell in love with disgusting strawberry gum, because of the way it filled my mouth with kindness. (It’s a good thing I fell in love with the flavour, because she gave me approximately ten more pieces, one each time I started to cry.) Thanks, thanks to you, whoever you are.
Later, in Toronto, going through customs, I had one concern and one only, and that was to have a smile on my face when I met my lovely man.
The customs guy justifiably questioned my three-day trip to Asia. I doubt I look like a drug dealer, but I’ll bet lots of them don’t. I answered his questions by saying my trip had been cut short. By what, he wanted to know. By something bad happening, I said, which wasn’t good enough for him. By something bad happening to my lovely man, I said, and started to cry.
Never believe what you hear about airport personnel being unkind. He asked for my boarding pass. In full snot at this point, and rifling pointlessly through my purse, I told him I didn’t have it. How about the flight number, he asked, which sent me over an edge. I don’t remember it, I said, but every $%&*ing person behind me was on the same flight, can you not ask one of them?
He paused for a second. I’ll make one up, he said. You can go ahead. As I passed his desk, he put a hand out toward my arm and asked, how is your lovely man now?
I don’t know yet, i told him, and ran past.
Thanks, thanks to you, whoever you are.
What wakes me up tonight is that kindness is everywhere. The world is so filled with it that even this awful event in our life, this huge, catastrophic slam, is a love story.
I’m glad to know that.
Thanks, thanks to you for the conversation,