Hey! I thought I’d write down some stuff for you to read one day. Maybe when you’re twenty-one? I don’t know. Twenty-one isn’t the rite of passage it used to be. Life is just one long rite of passage, maybe? Anyway, I’m on the plane and I just had this urge to write to you. In the future. Don’t know why. As you can see, I’m writing this on the back of a sick bag! I drew a map of Canada.
Okay, I didn’t. There’s no map of Canada, or anything in this life. You just have to figure things out as you go. Everything’s changing so fast. You know this. I know you know this. You’re probably rolling your eyes that I’m even writing to you. You’re going to open this up and be like why has Mum sent me these sick bags to read on my [SIGNIFICANT DATE]?
See? This is how unfigured-out this is. I’m just riffing! I do need to figure out when you’ll read this. Maybe when you have kids? (If you do. No expectation.) When I die? That might be too late. I might be around for a while. Although quite often I imagine myself dying, with you next to me, holding my hand. Isn’t that tragic? I feel sad just thinking about it! Where was I? Oh yeah. When to give this to you. I think I’ll figure this out as I go.
I’ve got a window seat, which is nice. There’s nobody next to me, but there’s another woman in the aisle seat. I smiled at her when she sat down, and she smiled back with the message Just so you know, we are not going to be friends. This is not a Planes, Trains and Automobiles situation. We’re both going to a Pacific island. Wow. End of story. Amazing how much a smile with dead eyes can say! Or maybe I misread it? I do this sometimes.
Anyway, it’s fine. It’s not like I was going to talk her ear off. I need a rest. I’ve had a lot going on. Maybe she has, too.
Okay, so she’s put on her blanket and eye mask and put her seat back and seems to have gone to sleep. So maybe I did read that smile correctly.
Is there a point to this, you ask? Why am I writing this to you now, of all days? On a series of sick bags? Is there some kind of confession I’m going for here? A guide to life? I don’t know.
I needed a holiday, that’s for sure. Diana (or Fancy Grandma as you called her when you were four – you were always perceptive), gifted me the Airpoints, which was very good of her. Did you know she puts everything through her MasterCard so she can rack up rewards? Petrol, food, landscaping supplies? One of those people. The ones who can afford to clear their cards at the end of the month! LOL. But some people are really good at squeezing every last little bit of value out of a system, aren’t they? Every reward, bonus, tax advantage. It’s a skill.
Don’t get me wrong, Diana is a fine, fine grandmother. A set of Sylvanian Family figurines for your fifth birthday! When you buried them in the garden, I was pretty embarrassed. You said there’d been a volcanic eruption nearby and sadly everyone had been buried alive. I spent a bit of time getting them back to normal, but they were never the same after that. I told her they were well loved.
Why did she gift the Airpoints to me? Did she think I needed a break? Grandparenting guilt? Some kind of interpersonal transactional voodoo to make me feel indebted to her? A story to tell her golf friends? She looked so wretched, the poor thing. I just had to do something.
What about simple generosity, you ask? One human to another human. Maybe? Maybe.
Okay. So, we tried. I think most people who break up with other people do really try. Modern family life is not as disposable as people might think. But at some point, one person (not saying who) might go, This isn’t the life I want anymore, and the other person (again, nameless) will have to accept that. Or maybe sometimes they both realise at the same time? That would be ideal, obviously! A couple just looks at each other, in the same way they might when they’ve finished a meal at a restaurant and just know that they are done. Yes, that would be the ideal situation, I think. If you’re going to get together with a person, try and make it with someone who has a high level of body-language skill. Then you might not need to talk ever! You could have your own whole language:
- I raise my right arm = Hug me.
- I touch my nose with my finger = I feel like I’m doing all the work around here, and I need you to lift your game!
- Hands touch opposite elbows = I’m up for it if you are, but it’s okay if you’d rather just read your book.
The worst situation is when one person can’t accept that it isn’t the life the other person wants anymore. Then it can get bad. Really, really try not to be that person.
The life we want versus the life we get. We sometimes don’t know in advance. Some good things that happen by chance can turn out to be amazing, like a new flavour of ice cream. I do worry there’s less randomness nowadays. Nobody gets lost or bored anymore. We know so much or can find it out too easily. How many movies couldn’t happen because of the way we run our lives now? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? His parents would get a text from the school to say he was absent. Boom.
I’m not feeling so flash, actually. Maybe something I ate disagreed with me?
This morning, before breakfast, I was putting everything in a bag. Up until the moment I pack for a holiday, I think I’m only going to need four things: sunglasses, a sarong, a book and a towel. But no. When you get to my age there’s quite a list. Six different supplements so you don’t feel so old, crabby and tired. A certain mood mist spray called Relax and Let Go that you don’t seem to be able to sleep without now. (Though it could just be the placebo effect.) That nice shampoo and conditioner your hairdresser recommended that, even though you nearly died when they told you the cost of it, you bought anyway.
So, at six o’clock this morning, I’d packed. I was imagining the trip, like a dress rehearsal. I will drive myself there and park in the nearby suburb so I don’t have to pay for airport parking, and then I will wheel my bag through that suburb (nonchalantly, avoiding the glares of local residents leaving for work in the morning). I will have a relaxing coffee and contemplate the puddles on the tarmac and the grey clouds hanging over the city, then I will proceed through customs – not too late, always stressful nowadays. (Air travel has really been ruined, hasn’t it? Just one anxiety after another.)
And that’s when I realise. My passport! My passport! It’s not even here! It’s in storage.
So, I jump in the car and go over to the storage place. Luckily near the airport. (While I’m really grateful for this housesitting gig while I get back on my feet, it is kind of a pain having everything I own stacked in banana boxes, six high, on the other side of town.)
I find it quickly, but by this stage I am running late, and I’ve skipped breakfast, so I stop at the service station by the airport and grab a chicken sandwich from the cabinet. Maybe this is where I’ve gone wrong.
So. Feeling pretty peaky now.
I think I’m going to lose it soon. I’m not sure whether I want to shit or barf? Maybe both?
If I want to be sick, I guess I could use one of these sick bags? Not the ones I’ve written on obviously, I think some of this is pretty good, but I’ve still got a few unused ones. There are none in the middle seat pocket. I could get some from the Aisle Woman who hasn’t moved an inch since we took off. She is completely stretched out and motionless, like a corpse!
Okay, so I just sneaked some out of her seat pocket. The man in the seat across the aisle gave me a funny look. These aisle people! Anyway, this woman is really asleep.
I still haven’t barfed, but I think I need to go to the toilet. I’ve been checking and the nearest one has been occupied for ages, but there’s nobody waiting. Should I go and wait outside it? I hate being that person. Even if you smile at the person coming out, they know you have been waiting for them all this time.
I’m going to have to get past this corpse!
I think I’m going to have to climb over her.
Okay. I’m going in!
So, this is what I did. I moved onto the empty middle seat in a low crouch, then I put my left foot out and over the Corpse Aisle Woman and grabbed onto the back of her seat, thinking that I could slowly lower that foot onto the floor. So, I start my manoeuvre, but then along comes a steward wheeling their trolley towards me. Great. I retract that foot, but I don’t want to lose all the progress I’ve made, so I just hover there in this crouching tiger position while they go past. I’m basically straddling Corpse Aisle Woman at this point. I’m really hoping she won’t wake up. I’m also feeling pretty peaky, and I’m not sure which way I’m going to blow, if you know what I mean. I use the back of her seat to lower myself to the ground and then bring my other leg over without kneeing her in the chest. I feel like James Bond. Or a shorter Uma Thurman.
By now I am absolutely about to lose it. When I get to the bathroom, the door opens and out comes a woman and a little girl who looks about three. Very cute. ‘I washed my hands,’ the girl says to me, holding her hands up, her fingers moving like little stars twinkling. The mother smiles at me. ‘I washed my hands, too,’ she says, for the avoidance of doubt. She doesn’t twinkle her fingers, though. Maybe this is what it means to be an adult?
The relief. Also, the smell. I stay in there for a while, wondering what to do. Be the person who has hogged the toilet for twenty minutes while it clears, or the person who leaves behind a toenail-curling stench? But then I remember my mood mist! I spray Relax and Let Go around the toilet cubicle and leave behind a relaxing blend of lavender, rose and lemon balm.
And that was it. I feel okay now. Maybe it was the chicken sandwich, or maybe that was me releasing the past month, or six months? Or maybe my whole life? I really feel so much better.
Corpse Aisle Woman is still asleep! I wish I could sleep like that. It was harder getting back across her, due to the lack of elevation that had been provided by the middle seat. I tried a different technique, turning the other way this time, lifting my left leg again like a ballet dancer, up, up and over her, then down again. She moved slightly at this point, so I quickly dived towards the floor next to my seat, then pulled myself back up again. I didn’t look at the man across the aisle.
I was thinking about dying the other day. I thought maybe just after you pop off, they play all the bloopers of your life, all the embarrassing moments. The Freudian slips, the Spoonerisms, driving off with the petrol pump handle still in the car, watching the tent blow away across the paddock.
I think I’d enjoy that. You have to laugh, don’t you? (Although when most people say that, it’s usually a situation that’s not very funny.)
They’re telling us we’re going to land soon. I can feel the plane dropping down. This is exciting. I’ve never been to an island before.
We’ve come through the clouds now, and I can see the ocean.
Corpse Aisle Woman is awake! She smiled at me! I held my hands up to her and twinkled my fingers.
Your dad and I are over as the thing we were. But we are all still here.