Last Friday, I flew from Toronto to Seattle to visit two of my favourite people for a few days before visiting more of my favourite people in Victoria.
You know that feeling of nervous anticipation when you’re boarding a plane and waiting to see who’ll be your seat mates for the next several hours? Well, I lucked out this time: my neighbours on the Chicago-to-Seattle segment were a spunky Swiss couple in their early seventies en route to the Pacific Northwest, where they would pick up a motor home and tour the coast for a month.
I want to be them one day. Actually, I want to be them now.
So I took frequent breaks from reading The New Yorker—everyone knows you’re not supposed to attempt work on the plane—to drink my lukewarm United Airlines tea and eavesdrop on my newest idols. (I was able to pick out a pleasing number of words here and there. My two years of university German classes have finally proven good for something.)
Despite my best efforts at being discreet, I kept involuntarily glancing over at this Swiss duo, who were eating trail mix and flipping through a travel guide stretched out in their laps. They had earlier told me that they “make a trip like this every year”; the idea of being that untethered is incredibly appealing to me, as I’m sure it would be to anyone. The fact that I feel so confined by epilepsy right now just amplifies this craving for freedom of movement.
I miss my pre-epilepsy adventures, when I’d book a round-trip ticket to London and then city-hop from random Eastern European city to random Eastern European city. As much as I want to think that I can do whatever “normal” people can, the reality is that while shorter trips are fine, extended ones currently aren’t: I get tired easily, and I have frequent medical appointments. It’s depressing to realize that this decades-older husband and wife are likely spryer and can probably handle much more than I can, and though there’s a good chance that my situation will change significantly in the next forty-odd years, my illness is, of course, a chronic one—there are no guarantees, and I refuse to set myself up for disappointment.
I was in the middle of dwelling, as is my way, on what I’ve “lost” when the Swiss woman leaned over, put her hand on my shoulder, and smiled gently.
“You appear fatigued, dear. You take care.”
I wanted to cry, but she was right, so I took a nap instead. The Swiss couple, full of energy, didn’t sleep a wink the entire flight.