July 4 & 5 – Where Any Two Roads Cross
Across the Pond
A chilly, misty rain is whisked away from the windshield on the drive to the airport. Check-in is painless, and I silently wish my suitcase safe journey as it disappears down the automated ramp. Settled into the "Passengers Only" area two hours before my 12:05 flight departs, I chat for over an hour with a couple from Wales who are on their way to their annual holiday – this year to the Dominican Republic. They have several parcels full of duty-free liquor and cigarettes and are both nervous talkers.
We sit and chain smoke (cough) and I listen to their chatter about their grown son, for whom they've left casseroles in the freezer, and Mrs. Watkins' job as a cosmetology instructor. The time flies until they have to go board their flight. I am left staring out the window at gray misty skies, completely zoned out.
Only a half an hour until time to board my own flight and I watch as many families with several small children arrive and check in, hoping that they will be seated far away from me. The full realization of leaving the UK hasn't completely sunk in yet, but I know it will sometime during the flight and don't want to be caught in forced cordial conversation, especially with children, when it does.
I have a window seat on this flight, and the seat next to me is taken by an unassuming Yorkshire gentleman. He politely offers to stow my carry-on in the overhead for me and I show him how to adjust his seat back and use the little radio headphones. This is his first transatlantic flight and he is another nervous talker, but that's okay. I really don't want or need to be alone with my thoughts just yet.
He reminds me of Alistair from Crichton Castle, though a bit younger, in that he had lived in the same small Yorkshire village all of his life and has no inclination to ever live elsewhere. He tells me all about himself and his children, a recent divorce, his job as a software engineer, shows me the murder mystery that he is reading, waxes poetic about living in the Yorkshire countryside – all in a wonderfully soft-spoken Yorkshire accent.
Three hours into the trip we realize we haven't yet exchanged names, which we do laughingly, settling in for the five additional hours we have yet to travel. He asks if I had the opportunity to sample any of the local ales in Yorkshire and which was my favorite. I tell him I have a difficult time deciding between Theakston's and Blacksheep. He then tells me that the owner of the Blacksheep Brewery is actually one of the brothers who ran the Theakston's brewery. There was a falling out among the family members and the one brother left the business to start his own, calling it Blacksheep, in reference to being the black sheep of the family.
We continue talking about Yorkshire and other places I have visited all through the movie and find another good laugh over dinner when he can't get his little wine bottle open. The perforation where the cap and the collar meet isn't completely perforated and he twists and twists and keeps looking at me with the most perplexed look upon his face. Finally he says he is going to take it to the flight attendant and ask for another.
"But what will you do when she just twists it off with no effort," I ask. His eyes go wide and he raises his brows. This is obviously not acceptable. "Time to put Plan B into action," he says, taking up his knife from his dinner tray. Sawing through the metal seal he states that the next person who uses this particular knife will certainly complain about the toughness of their meat.
Two bottles of wine later and his eyes are at half mast. I only realize at that moment how nervous he is about this flight across the ocean. His head tilts at a precarious angle, landing lightly on my shoulder, as he falls asleep. I can't help but laugh and he awakens, apologizes profusely, repositions himself and nods right off again.
I turn my head and look out over the ocean. The sun is shining brightly down on wispy clouds below; there is no land to be seen. I close my own eyes, finally giving in, finally facing up to the good-byes I know I must say in my heart – a heart that is full of the sights and sounds that have made up the past two weeks, a heart that is filled with the sensation I felt, almost overwhelming at times, of finally being where I was meant to be on this earth.
As we head west into the bright light of day, I make a promise to myself to return someday, no matter how long it will take me to manage it again. I will return to these places and visit others that call to me just as strongly. Behind closed eyes, I summon visions of the wonders I am leaving behind. I embrace them, hold them close to my heart, where they will remain until I can truly see them again.
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