As expected, there wasn’t a lot of quality sleep last night. I was well and truly awake from 5am but lay in torturing thought until 7am when I deemed it acceptable to roll my bones out of bed. With my mind already churning furiously, I left my body largely unsupervised to carry out the practised task of packing, only checking in to register the moment when I zipped up my backpack for the last time – the next time I open it will be in Sydney.
I had some coffee, paid my bill and said my goodbyes. My taxi was waiting. Deep breaths, I picked up my bag and took the first reluctant step in this return journey of 5,000 miles. The taxi drove back through Chiang Mai city – it seemed so long ago that I was there though it’s only been days, the memories of times spent with new friends already imbued with nostalgia. I felt my lip begin to wobble but kept it in check.
I arrived at the airport and checked in for my domestic flight to Bangkok with no fuss. Once the door to the plane was shut, so too was the door to my journey. This simple action seemed to demarcate one moment from the next and I am now undeniably locked into transit that will deliver me ‘home’, ready or not. I could have cut and run at Bangkok, it crossed my mind and I was tempted, but I didn’t. I checked in for my international flight and anxiously filled the intervening hours trawling through the duty free shops. I tired to find my perfume thinking it may have an aromatherapeutic calming effect but alas, it wasn’t there. Instead I opted for Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb to evoke the presence of my super sister, Gabrielle.
I treated myself to one last green papaya salad and mango smoothie before making my way to the check-in gate. The queue was long which gave me the opportunity to check my emails one last time. I don’t know what I was logically looking for but I didn’t find it – actually, I do but there was no reply where I hoped there would be to wish me safe travel. Everyone around me looked so calm and I worried that I was marking myself out as a security risk with my nervous behaviour. If I did, no one stopped me. I took up my window seat and for a while, it looked like I might have the row to myself. Unfortunately, the passengers we were waiting for were my hygienically-challenged, armrest-hogging flight companions.
As we took off, I noticed something – the reflex to reach out for where Matthew’s hand would ordinarily have been wasn’t there. I don’t know when it stopped but I observed it for the first time now, instead seeking comfort internally and clutching my little tiger eye stone. I don’t have a fear of flying per se but occasionally get a bout of it. Even so, I’ve noticed I’m feeling far more philosophical about that these days too.
Once we levelled out, I plotted out my viewing schedule of movies I’d never watch on the ground starting with Green Lantern and followed by a sadistically-chosen, lesser-known off-Hollywood production that cut far too close to the bone and had my sobbing silently after lights out. My only chance of sleep now is to put on the most boring of documentaries in the hope that it will both distract and sedate me. If not, I might just learn something. Here goes…