Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.-John Donne. (Used by Hemmingway as an inspiration for the title to his book for whom the bell tolls about the Spanish Civil war.)
Every reader has a list. A wish-list of books and authors they want to get to. Why we don't just read those books and those authors? I have no idea, laziness, time, availability, difficulty. All of these reasons have resounded in me as I thought over and over I really should read some Hemingway This guy travelled, he wrote a book about a European civil war that he witnessed, he went all over Africa and he has a house in Cuba that's now a museum. He also drank copiously, one of the great drinkers of the last century, one of the great hunters, one of the great travellers, one of the great writers; he's on my wish-list.
Hemingway said that there are only two things you have to be sober to do, write and hunt “you have to do those cold.” I would love to get his opinion on airport travel.
I have these friends and when I was leaving for Egypt, the land of the Nile and no alcohol they insisted on a send-off that would include rivers of alcohol. I agreed. This was my reasoning the flight is at 3 am, I have to be at the airport at 12, before I leave home I’ll have a shower and then I’ll go. It doesn't matter how much I’ll drink because by then I'll have sobered up.
I packed my suitcase with a glass of liquor in my hand at all times, joking, talking and preparing to leave. “You know no matter what happens you'll be surprised at what you pack when you get there.” And we drank. On that day a special supper was being prepared at my house. It was chicken coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried, I love this meal, enough to salivate over it the whole day. At some point my cousin came to inform us that food was ready, she's maybe 2 years old, old enough to talk but not proficient enough that the curiosity has gone out of it. Maybe not for her but for me, I love talking to her, she talks in short curt sentences and am not sure I have ever had a full conversation…
And then blackness, well not blackness, I wasn't that drunk, well maybe I was because this was at 9 my next memory is getting ready to leave the house this must have been around 11. When I say getting ready to leave the house this is a gross exaggeration, my next memory is being ready to leave and trying to get one of my friends to wake up, but he wouldn't or couldn't, so we left him there and piled in the car to go to the airport. Again this is mere conjecture. If you ask anyone who's been really drunk before they'll tell you that alcohol has a way of playing with your time perception. Normal life is a video camera where things flow one into another, there are no lost seconds, this happens, its followed by this and then that, if you look back your mind can put together all the pieces of what happened and why you are now in the airport being shouted at by everyone near and dear.
“AGAIN, YOUR TICKET AND PASSPORT ARE IN THIS POCKET IN YOUR BAG, YOUR MONEY IS THERE TOO, HALF OF IT IS IN YOUR WALLET AND HERE'S YOUR ATM CARD, PLEASE REPEAT.”
“They won't let you on that plane so here just in case is fare home.”
OK that sounds serious, lemme concentrate. Except I couldn't all I could do was stand there and have all these things repeated so that they wouldn't drown in the marsh of alcohol that was my brain. You see being sloshed means you trade in your video camera for a cheap still shot. All it takes is moments of time. No context whatsoever, the only words being cheese as you are suddenly in this moment and then unexpectedly in the next.
I'm waving goodbye to another of my cousins through that glass pane in the airport, I can't even appreciate that its my first time here, all I know is that in my hand is the rolling suitcase with all my clothes and my store of surprise while strapped across my shoulder is my hand luggage. When you're getting on a plane they make you take off your shoes, your belt buckle and your coins so that you can pass through the x ray machine, I think, this moment wasn't in the snapshots. Neither was the customs check where they confiscated the alcohol I had carried. I was exporting some Kenya Cane to Egypt, a show of our culture that I was sure would be loved but I left it behind. That was surprise number 1.
Snapshot! The waiting room of the airport. Its really another world in here, tubes running round and round a tunnel of white scaffolding and tenting.. It has no relation to the country you have just left. They make you get on 3 hours early and then they give you no place to wait. You sit on these chairs and wait for your call. I was too drunk to fall asleep, the smart part of my brain told me to keep awake till it was time to go, so for a moment in time I got my video camera back. It was hazy though like I had lent it to someone with no respect for the lens meaning I couldn't really see or hear, I had full moments but I have no idea what I did for 3 hours. I was so desperate for human contact I kept going to talk to the guys who work there. My ingratiating charm wasn't there because all I got was threats. This mean guy told me that my fellow passengers could request that I be left behind. He told me to just sit down and wait.
Snapshot!. Its time to get to waiting room number 2, the one just before the air plane. There's a TV there playing some TV things and I look at it blankly desperately trying to stay awake long enough to get on the plane.
Snapshot! its time and I follow the rest like a sheep. I sit down and wait for take-off. One of my drinking friends had told me about the rush you get when the plane begins to take off and I am determined to be awake long enough for this. So sit and stare out the window.
Snapshot! “sir everyone has already left, you have to go now.” my first flight passed by without so much as a whisper of anything. I had already arrived in Ethiopia, everyone else had already disembarked and the air hostess sounded angry like she had been trying to get me up for some time. I woke up and quickly departed.
When I unpacked my suitcase I realised I had forgotten all my t shirts but 3. so here I am in Egypt with nothing to wear but shirts. there's not much liquor here at first so no regrets for that last time. Except am not sure whether or not I had that chicken. A lot of life is lived in memories, if you have sex but don't remember did you really have sex? Am not sure because so much of what we do is in the reliving, the part of it that's stuck in your brain and forms part of you and your memories, your happiness, your sadness, your youness. Well if I did enjoy that chicken I'll never know. So one regret.