Our flight’s initial descent catches me off guard. My recent trips to India took nearly twice as long in air and, as the attendants make a final pass through the cabin, I realize I’ve come to count on ultra-long haul flights to slowly shift mental gears. Technically, according to the calendar, it’s a day later than when we left PDX, but in reality I wasn’t in my airplane seat long enough for it to grow uncomfortable. My fingers and eyes are dry not from the cabin air but from yesterday’s last minute cleaning. My nose is still packed with dust from sweeping out our now vacant house in preparation for renters. My brow is still creased with the stresses of our harried final pre-trip days. Portland still clouds my senses.
Buenos días from the Aeropuerto de Madrid Barajas where there is no line at immigration control. The airport doubled in size in 2006 but, apparently, its passenger count did not. Citrus-hued pillars that lean in toward each other invitingly like old growth palm trees support the immense, rippling, wooden slat roof of the international terminal. Circular skylights punctuate the canopy, bathing the departure lounge in natural light. The sand-toned marble floor sparkles. The whole, sunny, polished place feels magical and deserted, as if our flight crashed and we had the good fortune to wash up on some vast, secret, architecturally enhanced beach.
If only there were lounge chairs. Instead we select a bank of orange plastic benches in the middle of the terminal which, mercifully unlike the chairs at the gates, don’t have arm rests in the middle, making it possible for Chris and I to take turns curling up and napping as we wait out our layover. I go first, resting my head on Chris’ lap as he reads aloud to me from the cryptic opening pages of The Devil is Dead, his favorite book and the inspiration for our Mediterranean itinerary. I’m out within minutes. An hour later, Chris and I swap places and I watch, amused, as he curls his 6’1” frame around a protruding armrest, takes off his glasses, and falls instantly asleep. His breathing is soft, his brow is relaxed. His glasses are removed and cradled in his hand by gently curled fingers. Observing him now, he seems more at peace in this orange plastic oasis than he as for the last six overworked months at home.
Wishing you a whole Mediterranean sea of sweet dreams, friend.