By the time I got on the flight to Singapore, I was completely fried. For two weeks I’ve been getting no more than six hours of sleep a night, and the last few nights it’s been about three. I settled in my seat at 2:30 a.m., put on my noise-cancelling headphones, and fell asleep.
I woke with a jolt when the plane lurched away from the earth. As the wheels went up, I looked out the window just in time to see my last view of Dubai disappearing in a blaze of lights. And I gave out a sob, pressed my hand to the window the way that wives do when they visit their husbands in prison.
And then I fell asleep again.
Off and on, over the 6 and a half hours, I was vaguely aware of the adorable kid sitting next to me. His father kept trying to wake him up and make him eat, but the kid just kept falling over into sleep. When he was briefly awake, I asked him his name in a couple languages, but he just stared at me like I was some kind of dream / nightmare. I could relate…
But then, when the plane started its descent, I lifted the shade and saw — Southeast Asia. Sea, palms, boats, fields, old Chinese-style buildings. It all came back in a rush – 1991, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2002…..
Oh! I forgot. I love Asia, too. As soon as the plane doors open I can smell Asia, my love, my first love.
That heat, which even at its worst feels less cruel than Arabia’s desert-fueled furnace. The air that smells like rice and fish and charcoal. I love the smell of her….
I am such an unfaithful lover. It takes just those seconds to forget my love of the Middle East and fall in love with Asia again.