From Beirut to New York

February 16, 2015 [Monday]

I am falling asleep, on and off, both to pass the time and because I haven’t slept all night. The seats on this United Airlines flight are small and uncomfortable, and I don’t like to push my seat back and bother the person behind me because I know what it feels like to be the person in the back.

I watch Gone Girl, because I’ve been meaning to watch it for so long; and the acting is excellent, sometimes scarily so, but the girl is a psychopath and the guy is a cheater. I like that the movie is a representative metaphor rather than a realistic example.

I curl up on my side, my head on the left armrest, but I am plagued with worries about the possibility of a flight attendant’s cart crushing my fingers, and so I try the right armrest, and then try sleeping face down on the tray in front of me instead. The muscles in my shoulders and back ache at various intervals.

The lady next to me is Russian, living in Switzerland, and is going to New York to help her daughter pick out wedding dresses. She is beautiful too, and when she asks me where I am from, she is surprised. “The Lebanese has green eyes, and the Russian, brown!”

I think back to the take-off from Geneva, to the snow-covered mountain range with the Swiss logo on the airplane wing taking up the forefront, and I wonder what it would be like to live in Geneva. Time and chocolate come to mind, though I know these are absurd generalizations.

We arrive, and I pass through the lengthy process of exiting the airport and entering the country. My bags are heavy as I try and balance the ones on my sore shoulders with the ones I am rolling along the ground. Yet I am almost running through the airport, and I can barely contain my excitement at being back home, back in the United States of America.

I should be sleepy, but I am so alive.

The queue for taxis is long. I did not know they had lines for taxis at the JFK airport here. The queue meanders back and forth, weaving back on itself to save space, efficient as all such mechanisms are supposed to be; it is filled with red-haired children and brown-skinned men and Asian-looking women, all so different and all so similar.

The cold hits me as I step outside to claim my taxi. A lady with a clipboard is yelling at all those approaching. “Where you headed?”

I remember the borough. “Queens,” I reply, as I rush to roll my bags towards the driver and sit in the warmth of the car.

He doesn’t turn the meter on, and I find this strange but remain silent as I mull over the rules and regulations of yellow taxicabs in New York City. He spends a long time chatting in another language with someone over the speakerphone, something I assume must be common in a country where phone plans with unlimited calling and texting are the norm.

I finally ask him about the meter. “I’m not trying to rip you off,” he explains. “It’s rush hour, so there’s a lot of traffic. If you want I can turn it on?”

I decline quietly, and I look out the window at the whiteness zooming by. The trees are stark against the white-gray sky, and the houses are forlorn and quiet and made of brick. The cars look like they do back home, except with license plates foreign to my eyes. Can I count how many times we stop at stop signs, block after block after block, driving past ordered neighborhoods with carefully numbered houses? I lose count after a while, and I wonder at the indecipherable progress of civilization.

When I arrive, I cannot find the doorbell. I search and search until I give up, knocking carefully on the glass window. I wait expectantly for the start of something new.



Add yours →

  1. Welcome back to the States, Zeinab 🙂

  2. You just took me to NY with that beautiful description!

  3. Great, vivid writing! I felt like I was traveling with you! 🙂

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