Taking flight


Sunday (we're up to November 9 by now, for those following along) Dario took me out for breakfast at our favorite pasticceria, Dolce Lucia. I hadn't been out of the house in over a week, and it was lovely... until I fainted as we were walking back to the car. We decided that perhaps I still was not quite up to outings, even of the non-strenuous variety.

Tuesday, I finally went the entire day without a fever. It was also the morning I took my blood and urine tests, and no fainting ensued, so I figured all was well.

Wednesday was Giorgio's birthday, and we went to the in-laws' place for a dinner of delivered pizza.

Thursday morning I took my last antibiotic pill.
Thursday night I did not actually go to sleep, but napped/dozed for an hour and a half, after I had finally finished all of my last-minute preparations.

Friday morning at 5 a.m. Dario and I were wandering around a surprisingly bustling airport, having checked my bags and acquired my boarding passes. There wasn't much to do at that hour, since all the airport shops were closed, but we did have a cappuccino at the upstairs bar.
Friday morning at 5:30 a.m. (TMI alert!) I got my period. I had a single purple-wrapped, ultra-thin and winged miracle of modern science in my purse, for emergencies. I decided this counted as such, and used it. I hoped the shops would open before I had to board my plane.
Friday morning at 6:00 a.m. a few of the stores began rolling up their security gates. A boutique of chi-chi accessories. The Ferrari store (where I bought a little something for my nephew). The jewelers. None of these had what I really needed. I decided I would simply wait until my next layover, since I had a few hours to kill.
Friday morning at 6:20 a.m. Dario and I said goodbye and I went through security, heading down to the assigned gate. It was almost time to start boarding according to the schedule, since our departure time was 6:50. I sat down and pulled out my book.
Friday morning at 7:00 a.m., there was an announcement that our flight would be delayed by approximately one hour, due to fog at the Madrid airport. I had no idea they even had fog in Spain, so I was a little surprised, but not worried. I still had plenty of time between flights, anyway.
Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. the (tiny!) plane started boarding. We sat on the runway and taxied around in circles until 8:15, when we finally hit the skies.

At 10-ish, I stumbled off the plane, having slept through most of the flight, and began to drag my overlarge and unwieldy carry-on luggage through the Madrid airport in search of my gate. And a shop that sold feminine hygiene products--preferably sitting out and clearly visible on a shelf, because I had no idea how to say 'maxipad' in Spanish. I was also very thirsty. I fantasized of sipping the freshly squeezed juice of Valencia oranges picked that very morning and rushed to Madrid for the sole purpose of providing my refreshment, as I lounged comfortably with a good book and awaited my flight.

By 10:30, I had decided I hated the Madrid airport. Of course the first law of traveling is that your next plane will always be at the furthest point from wherever you disembark, but this was ridiculous. I had been up and down stairs, trudged along endless corridors, and had not come across a single shop of any kind. I had passed a few vending machines, that was it. The annoyingly cheerful airport signage continued to taunt me with arrows promising that my concourse was straight ahead, or just over here to the left, but it continued to elude me.

At 10:45, I remembered that I had not actually eaten anything of substance the day before. Possibly a yogurt. Meaning that I was recently convalesced, running on virtually no sleep, slightly debilitated due to the current physiological situation, and had not had a meal since that take-out birthday pizza Wednesday night. The mirage of orange juice floated tantalizingly before my eyes. I could see the condensation forming on the chilled glass, feel its smooth dampness in my hand, smell the sharp bite of citric acid as I raised it to my lips. I realized I was hallucinating like someone lost in the desert.

By 11, I was certain I was hallucinating, or was trapped in some sort of Groundhog Day-like alternate reality.

At 11:10, I finally reached the area of the airport with people movers. I nearly sobbed in relief. I also vowed to learn the art of packing light.

At 11:20, the stores finally appeared. At last! A Prado museum shop (where I bought another little gift for my nephew). Various chic boutiques, the Spanish versions of the ones I'd left behind in Italy. Tacky souvenir shops. Nothing that seemed at all appropriate. I was aching all over, and decided to just get something to drink then go sit at my gate. Airplane bathrooms on intercontinental flights were usually stocked with the necessary toiletries. So they wouldn't be ultra-thin, and were probably wingless. I was willing to do without high tech at that point.

At 11:40, I emerged into the central part of the concourse. A self-service restaurant was thoughtfully provided, slightly faded backlit illustrations of sandwiches and pastries marching around the overhang above the counter. They probably had orange juice, maybe even freshly squeezed from Valencia oranges, but I was too tired to face a line and having to deal with an unfamiliar language. I bought a bottle of water from a vending machine, and lowered myself gratefully onto the hard moulded plastic of the waiting area seat.

At 11:55, a bit later than scheduled, the plane began to board. I had a window seat next to two Spanish girls who chattered excitedly and apparently knew half the other passengers. All I could glean from their rapid-fire conversation was that they were thrilled to be going on their school trip. I mostly just wanted to sleep.

At 12:40, when we were airborne and the captain had turned off the seatbelt sign, I squeezed past my seatmates and headed for the bathroom.
At 12:42, I emerged from the bathroom, having decided that Iberia was a crappy airline that, despite its perky claims, did not have its passengers' comfort as its foremost mission.

I slept on and off for the next nine hours. When I woke up, we were about to land in Miami.