This is my confession.
My suitcase has been to the US.
As you know, from my small and sleepy town in the middle of NSW (Australia) I dreamily surveyed the bustling, cosmopolitan air of New York as portrayed on screen and in the feedback of a recently returned friend. In my thirties and feeling like life was slipping by uneventfully, I set off to make at least one dream become a reality.
The drama of getting a passport and visa almost destroyed that dream. The weeks of form-filling, waiting, red-tape and unhelpful officialdom began to take away some of the ethereal beauty of the dream. The ensuing lack of spontaneity about the trip was beginning to disperse the romantic vision of a holiday in the USA like a fog in a high wind. I was almost ready to give up when, six weeks later, the paperwork arrived.
Barely discernable threads of the original dream floated again before my eyes as I climbed onto the train, waving noisily to those left behind.
However, clambering onto the airport shuttle, these last ethereal threads floated gently away as I began to realise what I was getting myself into. Intimidated by Sydney noise and traffic, I began to have visions of getting lost in a foreign country, of being swallowed in a sea of people endlessly milling around me. I would be spinning in an eddy of humanity, unable to see over heads, unable to loose myself from pendulous limbs, trapped.
As I alighted at the airport, my armpits were wet and I discovered a new trait – one of my eyelids twitched when under extreme stress.
People rushed by, signs blinked. The seventh person I asked for directions gave the same unintelligible answer as the first six.
I moved another hundred yards before panicking and asking for help again.
When I made it to the appropriate counter not only were my armpits wet and my eye twitching, I also had the impression of the floor gently undulating as if I had unwittingly chosen travel by sea.
Letting go of my bags had a hugely disorientating affect. This made my eyes dart from side to side, trying to find a landmark by which to ground myself.
And perhaps it was this random eye movement that made the staff reluctant to approve my boarding pass.
“Excuse me, ma’am, have you had anything to drink today?”
“No-o” I rasped. At that moment I had had a glimpse of a jet lumbering awkwardly down the runway, its wheels slowly and precariously losing contact with the ground. And in that moment I had realised that I had forgotten to be nervous about the actual flight. About trusting a total stranger to safely suspend me in the atmosphere through some incomprehensible machinations of physics and engineering, which (if you believe Crash Investigators) required only the erosion of one screw to send you crashing back down to earth, trapping and killing all passengers in a burning inferno.
Distracted by the burning inferno, I felt no resentment at the staff member’s obvious scepticism about my sobriety. At that point I was still cognisant enough to realise that my swaying gait and the tendency of my eyes to roll back in my head may have lead outsiders to believe I was intoxicated.
However, the sight of two large men in uniforms bearing down on me was too much. I fled.
Looking back, I don’t know how I escaped. I certainly left the building precipitately and with surprising ease. 24 hours later I arrived, shivering and malodorous, at the warm familiarity of my own home.
It was only then I remembered my luggage.
As I waited for my luggage to be delivered, I locked myself away to recover from my mortification. I hoped against hope that the town would have had time to forget my much boasted-of trip to “the US of A”.
A week later (after several phone calls, tedious red-tape and expensive delivery charges) my luggage turned up on my doorstep with a tag that read, “Tina Little. Qantas Flight XXX from JFK Airport to Sydney Airport.”
So when my neighbour peered interestedly at the tag whilst helping me and asked, “Did you enjoy your time in New York?” it just seemed easier to say, “Yes.”
An impulsive decision I regret with each evasive answer I have had to concoct to satisfy curious friends.
So did I enjoy NY?
No. I never got there.
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