Outside the hotel, I climbed into the empty shuttle bus, got my bags stowed and settled myself in. I took a deep breath: this was one complication resolved and as I steadily approached my destination, things would continue to get simpler. Well, logistically, at least. The driver recognized me from the trip in earlier and was puzzled that I was leaving so soon. Was there something wrong with the hotel? No it was fine, but this wasn’t my final stop and I still had some travelling to do. Then he noticed that I was alone this time; it amused me to wonder what conclusion he reached about how I’d spent those hours.
I got to the airport easily and promptly, checked in, dropped off my bag, cleared the security scrum: a little cluster of milestones achieved. In my travel uniform – a long-sleeve T-shirt, clingy cashmere sweater and black pinstripe yoga pants – I felt like I looked like I had it together, at least. It was mid-evening, the rush-hour frenzy long over. Quiet, but not so late as to be funereal. I set off at a stride, stretching my legs, for a gate that turned out to be at the absolute far end of a long and rambling terminal, an extension on an extension. I probably clocked a couple of miles.
I only waited for five or ten minutes before boarding began. There were no passengers needing extra time, so rows 1 to 4 were called to board first. I was in row 4. Boarding first? Doesn’t that mean business class? I checked my boarding pass. Definitely row 4. So on I went, with the self-important middle-aged men in their suits, and made myself comfortable. In row 4. Yep, definitely business class. There was a bottle of water waiting for me – bliss! (It’s the little things.) The rest of the passengers filed past in the dimness, filling the plane.
Once aloft, our flight attendant kept asking solicitously if we needed anything — this bunch wasn’t very demanding and she was pleasantly bored. There was a choice of food (food! choice!), and snacks. My rushed supper was hours ago already and it was time to top up. I had a nice sandwich, followed by the best Kit Kat I’ve ever had. Oh god, chocolate! I so needed chocolate. I passed the hours contentedly.
Even though I was one of the first people off the plane (business class!), Wolf was already there waiting for me. There was no need to speak, and no words were big enough to capture the feeling anyway. Wolf had missed me fiercely. I had missed him too, of course, but he had been alone with his thoughts and worries, and our plan to stay in touch daily had fallen through because of connectivity difficulties at my end. We waited for my luggage in companionable silence until the last passengers left and the carousel stopped.
They lost my bag.
I’ve never had a bag go missing before. We went to the nearby desk to report it, and the woman asked me to describe some of the more unusual contents of the bag, just in case they had to open it up in order to identify it. It’s a burgundy duffel bag. Um, strappy black stilettos. Right on top is a black nylon tote bag containing a set of folding travel wheels. Two bottles of rum. Vibrator as long as my arm that looks like a cartoon karaoke microphone.
No, I didn’t say that last one, but I thought it.
Within a few minutes she determined that the bag wasn’t really lost. It showed up in the system, biding its time in the city I’d just left. It just hadn’t gotten on the plane. (Was I that late checking in, I wonder?) They’d send it along first thing the next day. They could delivered it, or if I picked it up myself, they’d give me a $100 voucher. It was easy enough for me to get to the airport, so I chose the latter option. The next morning, the bag arrived before I’d really got going for the day.
And that was my first date with Gawan.
If I were a superstitious sort, I’d find meaning in the fact that things started to go wrong before they even began. His first flight got fucked up when the inbound plane had a bird strike, which resulted in his outbound flight being cancelled, and he was left scrambling to get to me. At our destination we had challenges with money and exchange, and varying degrees of illness for both of us. And then there was the Murphy’s Law Hotel. My getting bumped to business class for the flight immediately after I left him behind could have been read as the universe trying to send me a message. But that’s not how I read it.
It was trial by fire. We handled a ridiculous number of difficulties as well as could be hoped, and we still liked each other at the end of it all. The most important thing was to get to know each other in person; I’m not sure we have a great sense of what an ordinary day with the other would look like, but we do know what a rough day is like, and we managed well. Not to tempt fate, but I’m optimistic that our next visit will be much easier.