When you get an hour of sleep, it’s really not sleep. It’s really not even a ‘having gone to bed’ in the proper sense. When you get one hour of sleep it’s more like a ‘having drifted off.’ It’s something you do maybe while watching TV on Wednesday night. Oops, I drifted off. But last night – Last night? Surely more time has gone by. What do I call it now that I’ve crossed the International Date Line? ‘Night before last?’ How about ‘the last time it was night.’ That works. – The last time it was night, I went through the motions of ‘going to bed.’ At 1:45 am, I brushed my teeth. I urinated. – Upstairs. In Doug’s vacant place. Because we’re still without an operating toilet. – I crawled into bed and set the alarm for three. That’s A.M. When you do something like that, when you set an alarm for a time that is only an hour away, it seems like an okay idea at the time. It seems like that one hour of sleep is going to be great and you’ll wake up refreshed and get on with getting to the airport. Because you’re heading to Japan, after all, and that will be exciting, won’t it? But then 3 am hits like a rear end collision, out of nowhere, and you find yourself struggling to acknowledge the situation. You squint at familiar things and wonder if they’re real. You wonder how something could be so cruel as the sound of news coming from a clock radio at three in the morning.
Yesterday, which was Thursday, but which is now, as I type this, actually ‘two days ago,’ we had our tub glazed. It turns out that tub glazing is a pretty messy and foul-smelling thing to have happen in your apartment. Particularly the night before you’re going to catch a 6 am flight from Dulles Airport to Japan by way of DFW. Much of the apartment smelled like a nail salon, one that had been inexplicably built on top of a chemical processing plant. The lingering fumes made your eyes water. I was mildly horrified. There was also a white film over everything in the kitchen, a by-product of the whole glazing process, apparently. The film was some kind of dust. I’m still not sure if it was toxic dust or not. I’m hoping not.
After opening every window in our apartment and vacating for a while, I came back and began the arduous task of wiping the dust off of every square inch of the kitchen. I have a thing, see. I can’t leave on vacation with the kitchen dirty. It’s a small thing, but a thing nonetheless. With the windows wide open, our neighbors over on 10th street had a great view of me standing at the sink with just my boxers on and a white safety mask covering my face. Around 9 pm, I settled down to a wholesome frozen pizza in the living room. AC fan running. Windows wide open.
And that was the situation as I remember it: nine in the evening. Heading to Japan in a few hours. Hair-curling fumes sifting through the cracks in the door. Not one item of clothing in a suitcase. You’d think I’d be a little nervous. But I’ve gotten used to the chaos. I’ve gotten used to working indian-style at a coffee table while men pound at my bathroom walls. I’ve gotten used to living out of a duffel bag. I’ve gotten used to walking eight blocks to the gym when the smell of myself becomes unbearable and I need a shower. I’ve gotten used to riding the waves. Going with the flow. And I knew the packing could wait a little longer.
C got home around ten. We started packing around 10:30, and as I’ve already indicated, we wrapped up around 1:45.
Which brings us to now. The present. If that’s what this is. According to my Mac, it’s 9:34 pm in DC now. So in that sense, it’s still yesterday. However, in another sense it’s 10:34 in the morning in Japan. And my mind and body are somewhere in between, in the last hours of a 13-hour flight from Dallas. It’s dark inside the plane, but brightness leaks through the cracks beneath the shades. Babies are crying. There is a restless energy everywhere. People are reaching their breaking point. Including me. I’m somewhere over the Pacific. But that doesn’t really matter. The present feels malleable. I barely remember the flight from Dulles to DFW now. I sort of remember eating breakfast burritos at the airport in Dallas. Then, some 11 hours ago we got on this plane, where I’ve been alternating between painful sitting and painful standing ever since. One Celebrex and one Aleve down, a second round standing by on my tray table, waiting for water to wash them down. The AS is really flaring up. When I get up from my seat, I walk like a bow-legged cowboy.
I know Japan is going to be amazing. I know it’s going to be fun and exciting. A complete sensory overload. But so far, the first 18 hours of the journey have been more like . . . oh what’s the word . . . hell. Yes, if Dante had lived today, he might have made The Inferno one long plane ride.
When I post this, C and I will have already landed in Tokyo, taken a train from the airport, negotiated a taxi ride from Shinagawa Station to the hotel. The line between sleeping and waking will have been a fine one. I hope I can remember the journey. I’ll have to rely on the pictures.
Tomorrow will be an actual tomorrow. Not a today that becomes a tomorrow. And the real fun will begin . . .