It was a good hour to get to the airport and I didn’t speak much. I had Vicky and Joey on either side of me, both holding my hands and understanding my need for some quiet time. Watching me, one would have thought that I had never left the country in my life when in fact I had travelled a lot with my parents and even without them. I had been to Orlando last year with Joey, Vicky and her boyfriend Chris and the year before that we had gone to Mexico together and I had been to Germany to see my family probably a hundred times. I knew where I was going. I didn’t know the city too well, because I had only stayed with my aunt an uncle in the suburbs and occasionally visited Munich, but in the end it wasn’t like it was a completely new experience for me. I even spoke German, not well, but enough to get by for the first couple of weeks and I was going to start a language course there anyways. So I wasn’t sure what made me so anxious. In retrospect I could say that I probably had some sort of gut feeling, that I knew what was about to happen. But if that were true I know that I would have told my dad to turn around and never let me get near another plane to Germany again.
When we pulled into the airport parking lot the chatter that my parents had kept up the entire ride died out as well. We were all in a pretty foul mood when I checked my bags and got my boarding ticket. „Honey, I know it seems hard now, but I know you are going to have a wonderful time in Germany. And it’s only 2 years.“, my mom tried to improve the mood. „Yeah“, my dad chimed in, „plus, we are going to visit you really soon, and you always have Peter and Stefanie if you get too lonely.“ My mom looked at him and hissed „Ah she doesn’t have time to be lonely, you’ll see, you will meet so many wonderful people and you will spend most of your time studying and partying you won’t have any time to miss us at all.“ This time it was Joey’s turn to shoot my mother a dirty look. She shrugged apologetically as if she wanted to say „What, i am just trying to make her feel better.“ They all hugged me tightly until it was Joey’s turn. He embraced me with all his body and buried his face in my hair „I am gonna miss you so much, Em.“ „I will miss you too,“ I mumbled, tears filling my eyes . „I love you, and I will come to see you as soon as I can.“ „I know, I can’t wait.“ I peeled myself from his embrace, not only because it was really time to go now, but also because I could feel my throat closing up and the sour taste of vomit forming in my mouth. I was going to be sick and I didn’t really want to do that in front of my boyfriend and my family. „You guys need to go now, or I am gonna cry.“ They didn’t move an inch. „Please“ I begged but they still wanted to stay and see me off. „Fine, then I’ll go.“ I grabbed my carry on and my purse and stormed off out of their sight. But instead of going over to the security check I made my way to the next bathroom, maneuvered my bag into the small cabin and emptied the contents of my stomach into the white porcellain bowl.
I usually loved flying because it meant an adventure and seeing people or places I loved. I liked the smell of airplanes and the plastic covered polyester blankets and I usually couldn’t wait for the flight attendant to pass around the little peanut bags. I would order a diet coke and then stuff hands full of these salty little treats in my mouth until whoever sat next to me would offer me their share as well, because to them I must have looked like I was starving. But today everything was different. The smell of the blanket made me gag and the peanuts just tasted stale. I popped one after the other in my mouth without even chewing them. I just wanted to sleep and get this part over with. I felt like being trapped in that place between being asleep and awake at the same time, like when your mind started to register, that it was time for you to wake up but your body was still fast asleep. It was scary really, I had experienced this feeling a lot before I was supposed to be leaving. I would lie in bed and start noticing things around me, usually mixing reality with some weird things, like there would be a huge dog in the corner of the room all of a sudden even though I was terrified of dogs and I would never let one come near me and when I wanted to scream I couldn’t, because my body was paralyzed. It would take me what felt like hours to get out of that state and I was never truly able to get back to sleep after it, I was just hoping that this was not the case this time.
I wondered how those girls on TV did it. They always looked flawless when they got off the plane, with their hair in place and their skin glowing and their pants properly ironed like one of those stepford wives. When I checked my reflection in the mirror about half an hour before we were supposed to land I was a hot mess. My hair was frizzy and my make up had vanished. I had wanted to wear sweat pants but my mom insisted that I shouldn’t look too American when I got there and so I had put on some comfy cotton pants – which were now wrinkled beyond repair. The taste in my mouth reminded me of my worst hangover mornings and my lips were flaky and chapped. I took out my tiny travel tooth brush and even tinier tooth paste, since you weren’t allowed the real deal in airplanes anymore and brushed my teeth thoroughly. That at least was something that I could take care of. I smoothed my hair back with some water and pulled it into a high ponytail. For the remainder of the flight it would probably be ok too be uncomfortable with the elastic drilling into the back of my head. I took out some pressed powder and applied some chap stick but I still wasn’t happy with the result. At least it was only my aunt and uncle picking me up from the airport, so I didnt’ have to look that representable, well at least not for me. I know my mom would have loved for me to always look my best, but most of the time I couldn’t be bothered with stuff like high heels or lipstick. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, and if anyone would have fixed my face each morning I would have probably been fine with it, but the hassle of doing it myself was just not worth the result in the end. My mom always said that I was lucky I was only 22, and I still had natural beauty going for me. I knew she meant it as a joke but I really did wonder how longer I could go though life without really taking responsibility for anything.
When the plane touched the ground I was sitting on the edge of my seat and when the Captain turned off the „Fasten seatbelt“ sign I was the first one to grab my bag from the overhead compartment. If they had told me that they had to turn around right now I would have gladly spent another 10 hours on that plane but instead the flight attendant wished me a nice day in German. I had arrived.