Welcome to the third installment of the Rainbow! A weekly chronicle of my three years spent in the inland of Brazil, presented in a series of excerpts taken from my personal memoir “The End of the Rainbow”.
Today, we’re talking about the first time. That is, my first time on an international flight. I almost feel tenderness for that guy sitting on the plane, waiting to take off toward an unknown fate. There was so much ahead of me that I could never, ever imagine. Many of you will smile at reading some parts of all this, because you are well accostumed to board on this kind of plane, but to me, that was way more than a plane. It was the Ferryman himself. The one that takes you on the other side, into a new, different and strange world. And I savoured all of it.
Please get on the Beam and go.
Jan. 29, 2013
I found I had never wished so much for this day to come until I placed my ass on the aeroplane’s seat. But deep down, I already knew it. The same way I know that our rush for boarding is in fact the metaphor of what our life in Brazil would be. My life, at least. We were slowed down by an accident on the highway while driving to the airport, we had our twelve suitecases wrapped up with security tape and had to pay nine weight surpluses, three of which we did not expect, because they were disclosed at the check-in (I give myself credit because, at least, I spoke Portuguese with TAM personnel). As a result, we had to open and lighten some suitcases; we took off some clothes, the elegant ones, which would have served to spawn envy in the pimps of Caldas Novas and also our wedding photo album, weighing itself eight kilos. We made our way saying goodbye to my parents in a hurry, but I had the time to make them promise they would not quarrel but instead help each other. We got downstairs for the boarding and after having passed the metal detector, we were informed we were late; they were already boarding our flight and we were far away from the gate. We started to hurry, but then something happened. Perse had a panic attack. We had to stop and let her breath for awhile; I had never seen her like that.
– Everything’s going to be fine. – I said.
When she got better, we resumed our run, with hand luggage weighing more and more on our arms along the neverending path to the gate. We bumped into a queue, a very long one; we would never have made it. I explained the situation to an officer and he made us skip the row, pointing out the way for us and his information was quite clear: “Straight ahead”. But he didn’t say for how much.
Jan. 30, 2013
The last time I sweated so much was when I had dancing classes. Drops ran on my face and I was drenched by the run and the terrible weight of the hand luggage. The muscles ached, they burned and I could not stand any longer. We ran along corridors that seemed to never end, discovering my heart tired and not accustomed to such endeavors as they used to be. I was puzzled by the effort and fatigue I was feeling; I thought I would faint in a few seconds. I couldn’t feel my shoulders because of the weight of the baggage, the belt of the bag cutting me sideways and sending burning pain on my right shoulder. Gravity earned meaning to my conscience.
In the end, we got on the plane; breathless, our muscles torn. That plane I had only seen in American movies, the ones destined to cross the ocean and connect lands that talked different languages or big states of even bigger countries. We barely sat that the personnel on board had stopped by three times offering water, toffees (a tastier kind) and a little see-through wallet-size case made of fabric closed in a plastic wrapping. On the backside of each seat there was a touch screen where you could select various options such as movies, music, info on the airline company, flight map and the chance to follow the journey in real time, thanks to two closed-circuit cameras, one placed on the front of the plane and the other underneath, both allowing us to admire the landscape during the flight. Thus, I witnessed my first international take-off two-way; through the window and on video, looking at the runway in front of the monster’s muzzle. International flights’ runway is longer and wider or so I perceived. Many signalizations and light rows I had never noticed before. Perse grabbed my hand, saying she hated that moment; when the monster rolls on its wheels to take position. I loved all of it. I loved it even more because an international take-off is like no other; it brings with it a stronger force, a higher propulsion dictated by the aim of the destination. So the engines rumbled and in their crescendo, the wheels accelerated and the runway slipped away fast beneath us and before my eyes, on the screen. An ancestral strength wetted my eyes and stretched my lips and while I was smiling, I listened to my heart beating and then we were up. Italian land had been left. For the time being.
In the first hours, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen; I saw the night and the golden stains of lakes of civilization flow away down below. On the French border there was only darkness; there’s only woods and less more on the border. I saw the lights around Marseilles, French lights are less warm than Italian ones. Looking at the light zones beneath, I remembered when I went to Nice on a High School trip. Some of my classmates and I broke into the room of one of us, pretending an assault. We were accommodated in a small hostel. Our victim friend, instead of resisting, joined the play and got into character, laughing with all of us. He even lost blood from his nose but that was because he suffered epistaxis and in the heat of the moment, he couldn’t hold it back. There’s even a photograph witnessing the deed. We surpassed Barcelona and soon we were off the coast of western Africa; there I saw the moon trace a white beam on the Atlantic and towards the horizon, but a much wider horizon. I saw lights like flames and according to the route, that was Casablanca. Beyond, only darkness. On the map, the darkness was called West Sahara. Soon after, other lights in the night, the lights of El Alaayun. And then the black nothing of oceanic depth. And of my sleep.
When I awoke, I was way less energetic than when I got on the monster, where I had eaten and drunk all the stewards and stewardesses (far more beautiful and kind here than on national flights) had brought: water, coffee, guaraná juice, ravioli and stew with currant and potatoes (this one, Eloise rejected). I found that the stewardess, or better, the flight assistant, is called aeromoça in Portuguese, which literally means aero-girl, or air-girl. Only some kind of divine creature could go by this name. It is pronounced “aero-mossa”. Air gives a sensation of freedom, joy and hence positivity. It seems inevitable though, that these aeromoças are smiley and utterly beautiful. After the sleep, I found headache as a companion. We were an hour and a half away from landing. The crew served breakfast and I thought I’d better leave my stomach empty for the time being. Later, the aeromoça brought me some papers to fill up, it dealt with a declaration about my luggage and the reasons why I was flying to Brazil.
I remember when the monster depressurized; I thought my brain was about to explode. Neither a dose of my rizatriptan could ease that pain. And when we cut the clouds downward, I saw São Paulo. The Big One. Lights so similar and yet so different. Districts and suburbs’ streets, empty courtyards and night lights of shops and sheds. It was 4 am, or something like that. Some serial buildings, other streets, highways, interstates? Who knows. My bladder was full and I was feeling bad. We had arrived.
Luggage was a problem. Twelve malas*, charged on three creaky trolleys. Mine toppled and I almost killed a woman in the row next to mine. At the customs, nobody asked me who I was and what I was doing there; I was expecting to be grilled. In Italy, strangers looking for integration are almost treated as criminals. I walked on, sweating and cursing the exceeding luggage and in the end, we reached boarding 17D: Goiânia. We took some company from the first flight; a drunken goiana** who was sitting next to Eloise on the transoceanic flight. She had passed the most part of the time asking for wine, beer and more beer to the patient aeromoças. Eloise was already suffering due to her stomach issues and she had to stand the stench of alcohol of this woman who really liked to talk. She stood in the boarding row with us and we found her again on the flight São Paulo-Goiânia, same row but thank God on the other part of the corridor. And while I’m writing, she’s sleeping. We board. The waiting room is nothing posh or sleek: national flight, you know. But there are beautiful people anyway. Almost everybody is beautiful, here.
Hawk number 2 takes off, this time in the daylight. It’s overcast today in São Paulo; cloudy but warm. When the wing takes flight and we leave the runway, I see an amazing thing that leaves me speechless; the favelas***. The first favelas of my life. A multi-colored isle piled on itself.
– The airport is out of town. – Perse explains.
We fly up high. Higher. And higher. Beyond the clouds, we come out in the sunshine and in the blue of the sky. I love this part too. The plane turns and tilts and from this position and height, I perceive the bending of the horizon, the shape of the world. And the moon is up there, pale and far away but still the same. The one which yesterday shone in the darkness over Casablanca.
*malas = suitcases
** goiana = woman from Goiânia, capital city of the state of Goiás
*** favelas = community of big amounts of people, living in precarious houses and without the proper services provided to a regular suburb.
I beg your pardon, my reader, for the sketchy writing of this excerpt; my sentences here are short and straight to the subject, little is left for detailed description; I was on the plane and my eyes were going in all directions, my feelings were mixed and emotions and sensations came in a rush I could hardly find the paper and keep the pen straight. I did this mostly live, in the moment. Sometimes I dream I could go back to that day and do it all again. There was a very big amount of tension; we were all so stressed. But all went good, as you will see.
Note: at the end of the excerpt, I wrote down the name of one of the medicines I used to take those times, the Topiramato and the time I took it. I was in therapy for my headache, which had become quite serious by then and I was taking pills with a base of triptan, one of the strongest active ingredients against persistent headaches. Since the notebooks report the moments when I took the drug, I chose to leave it like it was, because the process of my therapy plays a role in the progression of events. I had brought with me a good supply of triptan; I was an addict. More on this later.
So now, what is your most electrifying travel experience, friend reader, the one you will never forget? Please tell me, I want to read about it.
This excerpt is taken from the memoir “The End of the Rainbow”. If you liked the excerpt, please leave your comment as a vote to see the full-length book published.
Thank you and have a great day!