Story just gets longer
So there you are, sitting in the departure lounge at Jinnah International waiting for the drone-lady to announce the boarding of your flight. It’s early, so early in fact that it can’t even be called morning. People around you are in various stages of nervous excitement, or nervous boredom, or nervous fear whereas you, you’re fluctuating between all three. This is the point where your life changes and though it sounds clichéd, the feeling is the most original you’ll ever experience.
From this very date, day after tomorrow, you’ll be the same person in a completely different place.
And that thought scares you. Because all your life has been a small box, with very strong cardboard walls out of which you poked metal skewers when people tried to approach. And now, the box, the sanctuary is still there but you’ve decided to step outside and take a look around, and for some reason, all the people you expected to see, the ones you had routinely skewered in the chest and legs, have disappeared like they never existed. Maybe they just got tired of waiting, trying, and getting hurt in the bargain; but you don’t realize that until you’re 85 years old and dying. Right now all you feel is insulted.
And then you get tired of the book you’re reading and decide to look around, hoping beyond hope that you’ll find anybody remotely nice-looking who seems to be headed where you are, only to let the utter hopelessness of your situation hit you smack in the face with a trout. You’re 24, you’re single, and you’re likely to stay so for the rest of your life; emotionally if not physically. And in a way, you’re glad. The lady with the bald husband and 4 children crawling on the floor will never be you; ok, the bald husband was possible, maybe. But that can’t be helped, can it?
And neither can the frumpy looking aunty with the grey goatee. You’ll never let yourself go like that. No, you respect yourself too much.
So then you decide to get up and walk around a bit; find a bookstore, maybe get yourself some coffee and a muffin…even pray because heaven knows the thought of the flight gives you ostrich rather than goose bumps. Nothing terrifies you more than the idea of the plane running out of fuel mid flight. You remember the time your car broke down on you in the middle of the Super Highway, and that was on LAND. Frick’n plane is in the sky. Last night you checked the atlas to see how many mountain ranges you’d be crossing, how many seas you’d be flying over and came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter because wherever the plane lost fuel and crashed, you’d die anyway; even if, and especially if, ironically, it crashed into a petrol pump.
The airport is full of people walking around, sleeping, shopping, or just standing in line. A lot of them are probably frequent fliers, and the rest would be like you, taking the first flight of your entire life, away from your entire life. You want to throw up now. This all seems such a huge mistake. What were you thinking? What are you running away from, and where do you think you’re going?
But you realize you can’t turn around since there’s no one waiting for you back at home. Maybe they’ll want you to return a few years hence but right now they’re just relieved you’re actually going. One less mouth to feed, and especially a mouth that craves caviar, rather than the daal roti that’s become hard enough to afford anyway.
Yuck. You’d rather not think about that.
In front of you a semi-decent looking man is flipping through a ginormous book on world politics. For all of one entire minute you pray to whatever God you believe in that he’s on the same flight as yours. And for all of that minute you let your ego sit on the bench and reach for the book right next to him in hope of catching his attention. It’s not your fault, you’re companionship starved. ‘No man’s an island, and it’s not like I’m planning to sleep with him. I haven’t discussed politics with anyone for a long time. And I’ll probably never see him again.’ Your mind makes a hundred different excuses whereas your heart just says ‘What bullshit.’ You tell your heart to shut up.
You’ve pulled the book out, you’re standing right next to him, and he still hasn’t turned around. That’s the extent of your out-reaching and you write him off as a lost cause. The book seems a lot more interesting than this guy’s back and so you start flipping through it, letting the pictures take your mind off his indifference, your sense of rejection, and the plane’s impending crash into the Andes for lack of fuel.
Drone lady’s voice fills the airport all of a sudden.
“Flight PK375 keliye Gateway 26 se boarding shuru ho rahi he.”
“Will the passengers of Flight PK375 start boarding from gateway 26”
You look to the man one final time, hoping he betrays some intention of boarding this flight. None whatsoever. He’s still flipping through the goddamn book. So be it.
The line’s gotten pretty long by the time you reach gateway 26. Separate queue for business class travelers… you look at them jealously while standing behind the frumpy aunty with a goatee. One by one the travelers disappear through the tunnel of tomorrowland til finally it’s your turn. The stewardess looks at you and smiles, and you try, albeit unsuccessfully to grin back though in your head you can already hear cries of terror when the passengers find out the fuel tanks have fallen off the plane.
Your steps feel hollower than your heart when you walk through the make-shift corridor that leads to the plane. It’s begun. You’re finally leaving everything behind, everything and every one. And you’ve just realized that you’re not as ecstatically happy as you thought you’d be. In fact, you’re so far from happy you want to point and laugh at your past self, then cry at your present, and give a sympathetic hug to your future.
“Assalam u Alaikum!” you pop out of your reverie to notice that another matronly stewardess is smiling at you. This time you don’t even bother and hand over your ticket. She looks at the number and points to her left. “That way ma’am”
Your carry-on has become a hundred pounds heavier all of a sudden and your right arm is paralyzed. Dragging it behind you, you manage to find your seat in the middle aisle. Sigh of relief. The farther away you are from the window the better. You deposit the bag in the cabinet above your head and take a seat. There are three empty seats next to you which infuse you with some hope. Maybe, just maybe. But instead of seeming too enthusiastically gawky, you take out your ignored book and open it, pretending to be oblivious to everything. Slowly the plane fills up with people. Fat women carrying dozens of children, fat men carrying their paunches, children running to and fro the aisles, old people trying to make it to their seats without falling on the children, and young people trying hard to look too cool for this flight.
Finally everyone settled down. You look at the three seats next to you. There sit the bald guy’s wife with two of her children. Her husband lounges in the window seats to your right.
You sigh and plug on your headphones. Something tells you that no matter how hard you try, your life will not be changing.