Even though we’ve been together for five years and have traveled to more than a dozen countries as a couple, there is always more to learn and experience with your spouse. But sometimes, the novel thing is the less-than-pleasant experience of flying 16 hours from Central Europe to the United States.
Leading up to the flight, we were excited. Despite both being from the same hometown, we’ve never flown back home together for half a dozen reasons. Finally, that was about to change. This time, we got to pack one checked bag instead of two. We didn’t have to say goodbye to each other before a lengthy US visit apart. Instead, we spent our last couple of days at home clearing out the fridge and thinking about how much we’d miss our apartment. Even though we’d have to suffer through an exhausting day of travel, at least we’d suffer together.
It’s odd to think that someone who knows every mole on my body and the way my face twitches when I’m about to cry will be flying transatlantic with me for the first time, especially considering how much we both travel. But mostly it’s comforting. When you’re flying and you get the existential scaries, like what if we lose an engine, at least we’d get to die holding each other.
But then the novelty of undertaking such an unpleasant journey with someone you know so well fades real quick. She set two alarms, for 2:45 am and 3 am, even though that just means I’m going to be up at 2:45 am and she’s going to get up with her backup alarm at 3 am. Great. At least I slept a couple of hours, but she says good morning with “I’ve been awake all night.” Oy. I have to travel with a woman on her period who didn’t get any sleep? The thought of losing an engine suddenly sounds a lot less tragic.
She already wants to kill me before we’ve even gotten down the stairs of our apartment building because she’s the one carrying the huge bag we so lovingly packed.
I think about the couples that take transatlantic flights for the first time after their wedding for the honeymoon. What an experience that must be. I learned from my mom that before you marry someone, you should live with them and sleep with them. If I had additional wisdom to impart our imagined future children, I think I would like to add fly across an ocean for 16 hours. It’s like a pandemic lockdown but more exhausting and with crappier food.
She finally falls asleep as we land at our connecting airport. She wakes up groggy and disoriented.
“Let’s use the bathroom and get some food before the next flight,” I suggest. But I make the mistake of stopping at the first cafe I see instead of the bathroom.
“Do you need to use the bathroom or not?” she snaps.
“You need to have some tea first. I can wait.”
This might be our first long-haul flight together, but I already know caffeine can defuse any situation. She’s a new person after she’s eaten and had tea. Before we know it, it’s time for our longer flight.
We hold hands as the plane takes off. My hands sweat involuntarily and she gets grossed out, like she always does. We exchange the things on the dinner tray we don’t like. Then we settle in for a cozy flight together. Maybe flying together long-haul won’t suck after all.
“Are you sure you don’t want to take a melatonin?” she offers. But she knows I can’t sleep on planes.
Six hours later… My neck is cramping as I doze off in 15-second increments before jerking awake. I’m on my second 2.5 star movie (They’re dying because they’re on a beach that makes people old!). My wife is knocked out on a melatonin cloud. That bitch. She’s probably drooling into her Covid mask. Why did I give her the aisle seat if she’s just gonna sleep all over my arm rest?
She finally awakes just as my movie is ending.
“What’s the twist?” she asks.
“I don’t know. The beach makes people fucking old.”
She turns on a movie I didn’t want to watch so I wouldn’t spend half the flight crying. We have breakfast. When she finishes the movie, she tells me the plot and I cry anyway.
Finally, mercifully, the pilot announces our descent into our hometown airport of Miami. My wife is rested and full. And I’m a zombie. We immediately remember why we don’t live here anymore when we deboard into a chaotic hall with a filthy bathroom and a 45-minute line for passport control. The family standing behind us is talking loudly and their kids are bumping against the backs of our legs the entire wait.
“Fuck this place and fuck these kids.”
“Third world ass country.”
We laugh. Despite the exhaustion of the torturous itinerary, there’s no one I’d rather fly with than her.