Tickets bought, hotel reservations made, housesitting arrangements arranged for my Standard Poodles, youngest daughter (and power of attorney and executor) informed; close friends (all three being lawyers, not actually oxymoronic), consulted – naturally they were alarmed at this yet another startling example of my current mental instability. Warnings received and ignored, I suddenly found myself in a taxi at 5:00 a.m. of a Wednesday morning on my way to the Ottawa International Airport. Now I was suddenly nervous.
I kept reminding myself of my purpose for this trip, my stated one: to do due diligence on this new internet prospect, to ‘seize the day’ (and have no regrets in my ‘old age’) and to admit to myself I was still looking for Almighty; not The Almighty of course, but Emily who had only discovered at age 20 that Almighty was not actually her name. I suppose I could have called the trip ‘research’ for my book but Canada Revenue Agency might have looked askance at a $10k expense for the project. Still, it was a bit nerve-racking in the cold light of day (light?, at 5:00 a.m. nearing the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere??) to be spending that much money on a possible love interest. This was going to cost a lot more than an expensive lunch. Surely there were good candidates closer to home?!
Despite sticker price shock there are nevertheless good compensations for buying Business Class. And the first of these manifested itself when I arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ). I was ‘arrested’ by an Air Canada Concierge and invited to accept their offer for delivery to Terminal 3 to connect to my international flight to Hong Kong. At first I was surprised, and then delighted, and then my creative mind lit up and scenes from Mission Impossible took over my mind, music included. My greeter, Maria, marched me through the terminal building; I was sure I was observed with some curiosity by other passengers, and more purposefully by hidden eyes; down a narrow passageway to a flight of stairs to an awaiting black (naturally) BMW 540. Serge greeted me in heavily accented English while Maria assisted me into the backseat and took her place in the front seat. Strange to be driving under gangways, and amongst service vehicles and under wings on the tarmac. If my life was in jeopardy I reminded myself, better with a bang than a whimper. Despite all this we arrived at a back stair set in Terminal 3, whisked though private security and released into the presence of a waiting Air Canada attendant ready to receive my boarding pass for AC 14 to Hong Kong. I was mildly disappointed. Still I had the presence of mind to let them know that the ticket agent in Ottawa was not able to issue me my boarding pass for the last leg of my flight aboard Cathay Pacific from HKG to MNL. Toronto weren’t able to raise the Boarding Pass either but they would email CP in Hong Kong and a concierge would meet me to escort me to my gate and have my BP with them.
True to their word, I was greeted at the arrival gate, led down another set of back stairs and through a private security room, met with a ticket agent who was able to confirm my credentials and issued me with the necessary Pass. My Ethan Hawke fantasy continued unabated. I studied the fabled runways of Hong Kong airport and it was exactly as presented on celluloid!
I viewed the smoggy mountainous terrain all around Hong Kong Bay, and studied the apartment towers, wondering which of these Emily had been confined in for six years.
By the time I arrived at the Airport in Manila I felt I had been eating and drinking for 24 hours. And more or less, I had been. I silently evaluated the relative service levels of Air Canada Business Class and the similarly fabled Cathy Pacific service (well, fabled as compared to Hong Kong airport). I found AC superior; I compared the new AC Boeing 777 LH with its sleeping pods to the CP Airbus 359 and found merit in both with the nod going to the newer Boeing. I mildly missed the companionship that might have been afforded by a fellow in the adjoining seat, but with Pods, there is no opportunity for intercourse, of any sort. And just as well really, for even though it meant I was not able to take advantage of my captive audience and sell my books, I could direct my attention to the tasks I had set for myself – reviewing and editing my manuscript.
The downside to this strategy was that I arrived in Manila insufficiently rested and my head full of the lost love and not of the new love.
I disembarked in Manila Airport, Terminal 3, and walked the passageway that Ms E must have walked a number of times before. I came to the end of the long walk which opened on to a balcony overlooking the baggage hall. I surveyed the scene, vaguely looking for a glimpse of Carmen, or was it the ghost of Emily I sought?
Once my bag was retrieved from the baggage carousel I worked my way through security and into the mass of waiting humanity without. Everybody’s cousin must have been there waiting for every arriving passenger. Where would Carmen be among all these bodies? I figured my best strategy would be to find an open area – that pillar might do nicely, lots of heavily armed security around dressed in crisp white uniforms with gold regalia, – and let Carmen find me. I was excited to see if this woman was as promised in our week-long Skyping. After about 15 minutes it was becoming evident this strategy was not working. Maybe she was waiting outside. Reluctantly I passed through security and left the building to confront now a sea of cars, all being ushered out of the way by more security guards, and the heat of a Manila evening. If Carmen and her son were there they would be forced to be constantly on the move. But how was I to reach them? Ha! I’ll see if I can Skype her!
That worked. She replied almost immediately, but her message made no sense in the circumstances: ‘love you honey, miss you. God bless.’
‘Never mind God’ I Skyped back, ‘where are you?’
‘Don’t worry honey’, she replied, followed by a row of hearts and lips and roses.
‘Thank you for the hearts and kisses Carmen,’ I replied, ‘but tell me where I am to meet you!’
I could feel myself getting impatient. I was tired and now disappointed that our dramatic movie-style meeting in the airport wasn’t going to happen. And I hated this sort of inefficiency.
‘I love you honey, take care your self honey.’
This was the sort of broken English love language she used all the time on Skype, but all I needed now was a straight answer. I was beginning to think she wasn’t at the airport at all, despite the fact she said she would be there from about 3:00 pm, three or four hours before I was to arrive. She surely had time to figure out which gate I was at.
‘I’m at Gate 4,’ I typed, helpfully.
‘I don’t see you’ she replied. ‘Love you honey.’
‘Maybe I should just take a taxi and meet you at the hotel!?’ I knew I was being petulant and I regretted it. She could feel it too. I decided to call her. This texting was so inefficient.
‘Where are you Carmen?’ I almost squawked.
‘Oh,’ she texted, ‘I just realized you must be at Terminal 3; I’m at Terminal 1.’
I was really annoyed now.
‘I told you Carmen I didn’t know what Terminal I would be arriving at. You had to do some research.’
‘But your flight information said Terminal 1?’
‘That was Hong Kong!’
‘Don’t worry Honey, I be there soon.’
But soon seemed to take an awfully long time.
And then I saw her. She marched right past me in her off the shoulder ‘beach blouse’ shorts suit, brilliant red lip stick. I called after her but she was talking to me on her phone and she couldn’t hear me. It was one of the curses of these stupid cell ‘radios’; they are not phones at all, they are two way radios, one at a time transmission devices – when one party is talking the other can’t talk. We should be retrained by the army to avoid stream-of-consciousness speech and say 10-4 after each short, disciplined transmission. Carmen is not disciplined; I could not get a word in edgewise.
I grabbed the handle of my wheeled bag and started walking after her, briskly. She was walking fast, frantically looking for me, but I was dragging a full bag and trying to keep up to those long legs was a challenge. And what amazingly lithe and muscular legs they were! I was till listening to her talk on her phone as she walked and I kept saying, ‘stop talking’. She must have heard me, she stopped. ‘Stop walking!’ She stopped. She turned around. And there I was standing right behind her. She almost dropped her phone. She squealed with delight and immediately stepped into my arms and gave me a big kiss. I put my i-Phone in my pocket. I took her phone from her and put that too in my pocket. Then I took her face in my two hands and gave her a long ardent kiss. She wrapped her arms around my neck and I wrapped my arms around her waist. All the pent up anticipation and annoyance vanished in a Hollywood moment.
We located her son’s car and her son. I greeted Jay R and then Carmen’s niece, Victoria.
With bags in the trunk and Carmen and I in the back seat, we set off for the city. The 30 minute drive took almost two hours. But I didn’t care. Carmen and I made out like timid teenagers interspersed with talking and laughing with Victoria and Jay R. I did most of the talking, and quipping. Turned out the ‘kids’ couldn’t speak English any better than Carmen.I began to wonder if we would ever be able communicate beyond the language of love