October 22nd, 2010 - Andrea Marcusa
October 22, 2010
Somewhere over the Atlantic, the lights dim, and most of the cabin doses. The plane hurtles forward, the sky outside is pitch as coal and winter stars shine bright pinpoints. Below lies the ocean, but the lights on the plane make a warm red glow on the wing. My two-week trip to Cairo visiting my vagabond son has ended with a long hug and a hollow sadness. A few hours ahead I’ll see my husband and younger son home from college for a brief visit. I love this time. I’m between one world and another.
From the seat pocket in front of me, I pick up the airline magazine, open the map of the world, find the Mediterranean, and trace a path to all the spots I hope to see and witness, firsthand, culture and worlds from ancient times: Algeria, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey.
Three years ago, just as my two sons had left home for college, my home-based consulting business nearly expired in the recession. I felt lost. I walked past Mike and Danny’s empty rooms daily, the work emails and phone calls had slowed to a tickle, my husband was busy at his office. I felt alone, abandoned, old for the first time in my life.
Thirty-six months later, here I am, flying home from Egypt where I’d sat on the edge of the Mediterranean in Alexandria and feasted on fried fish at a dockside market. I’d met the one-eyed poet my son had befriended and spent hours studying ancient relics and arts in the Egyptian Museum. I could hardly believe it.
The plane begins its descent as it nears Kennedy Airport, a few women file to the toilet and the cabin fills with the smell of jasmine. The last hints of Egypt are still here – the teeming markets, men and women with black pharaoh eyes. I look out at the night and feel a sudden sadness, as deep and wide as the Nile itself, wondering if I’ll have a chance to see all I long to see.
Alone with my husband we worry. Voting, possible post-election violence, rising case numbers, a dreaded second wave, news that a working vaccine could be very far off. My only peace of mind, housework. Clothes washing on Wednesday. The steady rhythm of the basin filling, the woosh of water as the cycle rinses, the humming spin. The dryer a steady, warm, din and the clothes, cozy and soft in my hand as I smooth and fold. Out comes the iron and board, it’s whine as it opens, the iron heating, giving off puffs of steam, a soft purr. I press our sheets and pillowcases, smoothing out every wrinkle, then make our bed as perfectly as the ones I stayed in at a Paris hotel, where the pillow shams stood at attention like brilliant sails.
A disposable toilet wand turns the bowls the color of the Mediterranean and I remember sitting on the edge of the sea in Djerba, waves lapping near my feet. My electric polisher makes my living room wood floors gleam like the paneling in an old British pub in Bloomsbury and I’m back there reading Woolf. As I run a mop over bathroom floor tiles, I think of those in Morocco, and how my guide Ahmed said, “Green is for Islam, blue is for Morocco.” I dust furniture, bookcases, and framed photographs. There I am with my son after hiking to the top of Petris, Jordan where we drank tea with a Bedouin. As I clean, no new thoughts emerge. All I see are times I’ve lived. The café in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia where you can see an Island rise from the Mediterranean like a sleeping giant. Suddenly I’m in Paris dashing up the steps of the metro at Etoile into the cacophony of honks and engines of traffic circling. Later, I’m standing on the deck of a ferry in the Baltic Sea, watching the tiny red cabins scattered on the Finland shore fade from view. These images feel so real, I grow unsure whether to savor or resist them. After eight months in my apartment separated from so much that I love, has the divide between present consciousness and memory dissolved?
Ten years ago, I wondered if there was still time to see the world. I’d gotten a good start. Now I wonder if “normal” life will ever resume beyond my apartment’s walls.
Andrea Marcusa’s literary fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Booth, Citron Review, New South, River Styx, River Teeth and others. She’s received recognition from the writing competitions Glimmer Train, New Letters, Raleigh Review and Southampton Review. Andrea divides her time between creating literary works and photographs and writing articles on medicine, technology, and education. To learn more visit: andreamarcusa.com or follow her on Twitter @d_marcusa