When I say I had a terrible day of traveling, I mean it on the level of absolutely rotten, throw it away forever, because this hell had multiple levels.
For starters, I was leaving a reunion in Greece that caused me to realize that I had quite a lot of unresolved grief surrounding the abrupt end of my time living there. This left me randomly weeping as I walked through the Athens airport remembering all the times I’d been through the place and sat there with that person on that trip. Emotionally raw was a set up for added physical agony.
I was also only one day clear of a bout of flu that had knocked me unconscious for two days straight. I wasn’t feverish anymore, but I still had the sort of head cold that made my eyes randomly weep from sinus pressure when not already producing fluid due to aforementioned sadness. That’s not so bad, but liquid also leaked from my nose quite often, and I spent most of my time trying to cover all this up so that the people around me would not worry that I was most definitely spreading the plague.
Added to all this was a total lack of sleep. My flight left Athens at 6:00 am, which meant I was supposed to wake up at 3:00. I went to bed at 10:00 the night previous, then promptly did not sleep as my brain was terrified that I wouldn’t make it to the airport. You see, the flu I had so recently come out of was now happily residing in the people who controlled my transit. They had already downgraded from driving to the airport to driving me to the bus stop out of a fear of not being able to stay awake, and I laid in bed for five hours doing nothing helpful to the situation. I was very tired going into 19 hours of travel.
On the first flight I had the dreaded sinus head implosion that drags all the mucus in your body to the surface of your face, as though gravity wants to pull it from you through each individual pore. It also feels as though your teeth are slowly being peeled from their gums, and I had to keep running my tongue around to ensure they remained in place. As I privately groaned and snotted and contemplated face-removal, the young couple next to me laughed together and kissed noisily in Greek, the monsters.
Knowing how much food is given on transatlantic flights, I had not considered my four hour layover and how hungry it would make me. I spent each hour debating whether it was worth using an ATM to get a few euro for a snack, always choosing no and then regretting it. It was at this point that I realized one final thing: I had started my period early, and in an incredibly uncharacteristic move, I was unprepared. I haven’t been without a spare tampon or pad in my purse in over a decade, and I paced the Amsterdam airport in an anxious fugue, still wheezing and dripping from the nose, but also begging feminine supplies off strangers. One woman looked at me in pity, saying, “Oh honey, I haven’t had to worry about that in years.” Several simply said no or avoided my sick-addled English question, made unhelpfully more awkward when I added gestures to the question. Finally, one heroic soul, after saying she didn’t have a tampon, watched me sadly mouth-breathe at the bathroom door, waiting for a new victim to enter my lair. She paused, then clarified, “I might have a pad.” She properly dug into her carry-on suitcase, opening it fully and rifling through her life possessions in pursuit of the Spare Pad that no responsible adult woman goes without. When she gave it to me, I nearly cried, from relief or from sinuses, or both.
I could tell you how the nine hour flight from Amsterdam to Vancouver slowly turned the experience around, how a very kind stewardess searched both the back and the front storage areas to surreptitiously hand me three more pads that could have been made of gold for how much I valued them. I could tell you how I made eye contact with the man standing beside me as I accepted them and stuck them up my shirt, daring him to comment on my personal hell. I could then mention that the food was truly excellent and the seating comfortable enough that I quadruple checked my ticket and seat out of a fear I’d accidentally upgraded myself to business class. And I could tell you that my sinuses dried up and I spent the majority of the flight sleeping whilst breathing through my nose, deeply satisfied with the simple pleasures of my body finally working properly.
But mostly I will just tell you: I have never wanted so deeply and so desperately to fall through my apartment door, to hug my newly reunited cat, and to be as gross as I needed to be without anyone else around to notice.