“Hello and goodbye,” I sang morosely the next morning pretending that I was Madonna in her iconic role as Evita in Evita. If for some reason you’ve never seen this musical, stop reading this right now and catch up. I’ll wait…
Well? Did you love it? Are you singing the entire soundtrack to your cat? Do you wish you were at the Casa Rosada crying Eva Perón? Good. So, as I sang about Evita replacing the girlfriend of Colonel Perón, I looked around, bright sunshine streaming through the clerestory windows, glinting off the surfaces, and illuminating my leather bag. It was time to go.
I couldn’t believe how fast time had flown by, how two weeks were gone and how I was about to go back to a place that I’d be fine never returning to. In the modern world we don’t always need proximity to our loved ones, we can just text or Facetime. Technology is a blessing, but I could never send Little Chiffon a text. I don’t know if she can read. And I doubt she has her own phone.
Opening the front doors, she walked right in, rubbing against my calves until I gave her the rest of my treats. Patron meowed and trotted in after her. I sniffled a bit…must have been an allergy. And then a brand new cat sauntered over and I fell in love with him and I named him Salsa Verde for absolutely no reason.
And I so wish that I could go back to that moment and tell myself that I would be back to the exact same spot in less than a year. I am on pins and needles for my glorious return to Mexico City. It will be the most marvelous two months. I’m going to come back fluent in Spanish. Maybe. Probably not. But I’ll be considerably more fluent in tequila. I’m going to try them all. Well maybe not because that would be incredibly damaging for my liver, but I’m going to have a hearty sampling.
But enough of all this. It was time to be done. And I was glad that I had a flight later in the day. I had time to take one last stroll to the Zócalo and back. I drank in the scenery, absorbed the sun and the sound, felt alive as I wandered the busy streets, and sighed in melancholy contentment at the Cathedral Metropolitan.
I was overcome with a gladness that I had found this wonderful place so nearby, and that I could return with ease whenever the funds presented themselves. I remembered how stupid I felt the first night in Mexico City, completely overwhelmed with love and hating myself for ignoring this glorious country for nearly three decades. I had been a fool, but I was a fool no longer.
Back in the apartment, I requested an Uber to take me to the airport. I had about ten minutes left. I took one last shot of tequila, and then I held the cats close to me. The seemed to know I was on my way out, but I’m probably giving them emotions they didn’t have. Patron was noble and left me before I fell into tears, but Little Chiffon lingered. I told her I had to go and she squeaked. I squeaked back. She walked me to the door. I nearly lost it.
My Uber was waiting, and a kindly driver name Olga helped me with my bags. She wore leather driving gloves like Karl Lagerfeld, so I worshipped her. We took off, honking at everything, and I was already morose. I would miss the chaos and the art on every street.
Everything is so orderly in America. Nobody honks to switch lanes. They just fail to use turning signals and infuriate me. I didn’t want to go back there. But I had to. The drive to the airport was smooth, even though Olga dropped me off somewhere far from where I needed to be.
I had plenty of time to find the location for check in, and I could have cried when my boarding passes spit out of the automated United machine. How I loathed leaving. Security took time, but it wasn’t at all strenuous. No issues. And then once I was through security, I was in that horrible world that is unlike any other. You’re no longer in any particular country, you could be absolutely anywhere in the world. Airports in Cairo, Athens, Luxor, Des Moines, Paris, London, Zurich, Turin, Nice, and Mexico City are all bizarrely similar. There’s a souvenir shop selling overpriced trinkets, a coffee shop selling overpriced drinks, and a bookstore selling the same bestsellers. I have seen the same books for years. It’s peculiar. And everything is overpriced. And all the employees are harassed. And there are always irritating Americans.
Don’t get me wrong, but I’m sure you might, I love America, but we are a tasteless people abroad. Noisy and rude and entitled. We don’t talk to each other, WE SCREAM. We don’t have manners, we expect things to be such a way and if they aren’t WE DEMAND FREE THINGS. We don’t wait patiently in line, we push to the front and wonder why people find us annoying. I have never quite felt like I fit the mold of a stereotypical American traveler. I observe people all the time, and I try to avoid certain aspects that I find distasteful. Sitting in the lounge waiting for the plane to take us all to Houston, I could not have been less enthused.
I couldn’t stand to sit around them, so I took my heavy bags and went shopping. Couldn’t find a thimble anywhere in the whole country for my grandmother, but I found keychains and magnets and little bottles of tequila. I didn’t buy those, but after sitting around a while longer, I wish I had. I had some bland food at a food court and rifled through my journal, reflecting on all the wonderful things I had seen and done in Mexico City. I’d miss it.
And then boarding began and everybody was bustling and hurrying and pushing and shoving and the plane was soon in the air and Mexico was now a past tense event for me.
I tried my best not to be too miserable on the plane, but I was sat beside some youths. This didn’t perturb me as much as it might have done in the past. I’ve worked at a middle school for nearly a decade — if you do a bit of rounding, I’m used to teenagers. I know how they think and act and talk and they didn’t bother me at all. And they’re smaller than adults who are awful and rude and poorly dressed.
I requested a tapas box and red wine when the food trolley came by, deciding to, as Nicki Minaj instructed me to do, blow all money and not give two shits. But the lady refused to let me pay. I didn’t understand this. Other people were paying, but she waved the card away. I became immediately suspicious. Was it really free? Was she flirting with me? (WAS SHE BLIND?) Was I being thanked for sitting beside the youth? Was the plane going down and she wanted to provide me a quality last meal? I never did find out, but I enjoyed my tapas and wine tremendously.
And then I was back in America. Ugh. And as soon as my cell phone reconnected, I was hearing all about the horrible things the president was doing and then, to my horror, there were reports about the KKK being back. And I was annoyed already. The fucking KKK. My god. I thought we were done with all of that. Then the Nazis were back, too, and I wanted to fling myself into the sun. I shoved my phone back into my pocket and got in line to get into my home country.
I have always had a peculiar and strange fondness for going through customs and immigration. I never have anything to declare, but I love the new machines that the TSA has to process arrivals. You get to push a bunch of buttons and take a frighteningly bad selfie of yourself for the government. I adored the one that I received ages ago in Dublin. Look at it! It’s a hoot.
It wasn’t as much of a hoot this time. I mean the machines were the same, but I didn’t feel like my portrait was worthy of publication in a fashion magazine like the other one is. I like that picture absurdly. This one was fine, but I wasn’t serving a LOOK. I didn’t even take a picture of it to show you.
After printing out the slip of paper, I was ushered into a line that looked like it was easily two miles long. I wasn’t happy, reader. All of these travelers were infuriating me. And I didn’t want to be getting onto a plane full of Iowans. I don’t like seeing Americans abroad, and I really don’t care for encountering Iowans at airports. Inevitably they are clad in sweatpants, a state school hoodie, and their hair, if they’ve bothered to do it all is tossed into a messy bun. I’ve nothing against a messy bun, reader, but I don’t appreciate the lack of decorum at airports.
You know how I long for the glorious flights of old, back when people wore their Sunday best and dined on fine food and smoked luxuriously in the cabin. I don’t really want a renaissance of cigarettes a mile in the air, but I would like to sit next to somebody in a suit instead of somebody who is wearing something that doesn’t even qualify as pajamas. I own nicer pajamas than these people and I don’t wear any. The state of fashion in this nation is a travesty.
The line went on and on and on and on and then I was finally waved forward to go through immigration. The guy glared at me, which irked me to the extreme, and then he asked me why I was there. I didn’t know what to say.
He told me that I was flagged by TSA for a more thorough screening, and much to my alarm, he escorted me to another set of clearance desks. Turns out the person who put me in line had failed to notify me that the giant X in one corner of the slip of paper meant that I had to be in a different line. I was already running short on time and patience, so I was in something of a foul mood. But I am, before anything else, a gentleman, so I stoically waited in yet another line and awaited my fate.
I wondered what could have prompted this unforeseen series of events. Had I entered something wrong at the TSA kiosk? Was it a case of mistaken identity? Was the cartel after me? Was it just a random screening? TURNS OUT NO.
He looked at the computer screen after I kindly and alluringly asked what on Earth I was in this line for, but he didn’t respond. He scrolled and scrolled and scrolled and then looked up, “Have you ever been to the Middle East?”
“It seems you’ve spent considerable time there.”
“A few weeks last year…oh my god…is that why?”
THEY THOUGHT I WAS A TERRORIST.
I was not, obviously, and I explained to him that I was an amateur historian who was there to read inscriptions in a tomb. He thought I was a loser. I didn’t care, the only thing that I cared about was that this was taking forever and I already missed my dinner reservation and that pissed me off more than their presumption that anybody spending more than a minute in the Middle East is there for terroristic purposes.
The TSA finally released me from interrogation and I was free to go. I HAD TO RUN. Reader, I do not run. I will only run to a cake. But I had to. And I was dewy by the time I made it to the gate. Most of the passengers were on board already, and I glowered in disgust at their Iowa State and Iowa Hawkeye sweaters and their pasty skin and their overwhelming cheeriness. I really don’t know how I am who I am in this place.
My seat was occupied. I told the gentleman that was in my seat that he was in the wrong seat but he absolutely did not care. The woman across the aisle felt for me and gave me kind, sympathetic eyes. I was in no mood to deal with this asshole in my expensive chair, so I hurried off to find a flight attendant. She was a delight. She was literally this woman from Absolutely Fabulous:
Start at like 23 minutes in.
She took immediate care of me. “Do you need something to drink while I take care of this?”
She gave me a half bottle of red wine when I jokingly asked for one. Then she dumped a bunch of mini bottles of wine into my bag. I loved and worshipped her. She went and took care of the seat debacle, and then the kindly woman across the aisle cheered for me as I drank wine straight out of the bottle. Weird flight back.
And then I was in Des Moines and I was back home and I was with my cat and everything was as if nothing had ever happened. But I knew in the back of my mind and with the entire conviction of my soul that I would be back in Mexico City just as soon as I possibly could manage it. I hardly expected to be heading back less than ten months later. How lucky I am and how wonderful life has been to me.
And my horoscope the next day was hopeful: