Plane panic

August 16

It's a small tear, like when you try to stand up and your shirt gets caught under your foot, a tiny rrrr-rip sound and you stare down and there is a black hole in your heart. You skip a beat, try to catch your breath and notice the hole has widened. Panic. It is the fear of the unknown, of having left all your friends and family behind - who will call me brat, fat, love? How will I know who to call depending on what the weather and my mood is like? Not a single person will know who I am, how I am, that I dye my hair black every month or that I should never wear red nailpolish. The fear spreads like an inkblot on thick paper, a dark stain that's really hard to erase. A sinking feeling begins, like a baby elephant is stepping on my heart and I can't breathe. Is it normal to be so frightened, so lonely?

I guess I miss everyone. Why can't at least one of them be with me? I space my breathing, control the rhythm, recite tasbeeh and a few minutes later, it is possible to continue with my inflight movie.

I can be quite the solitary person who is good to go for several hours if there is a book and tea at hand - or at least I used to be. But starting my day-and-half's journey I wondered how long it would be before I could talk to someone.

"Does this look like the fast track to you?" the guy with the backpack ahead of me at the Fast Track, passport control at Karachi airport glanced at me.

"It's slower than the other queues," I sympathised because I was in the same line. We did eventually get through to the airport lounge and then on our flight. Three seats empty next to me, woohoo! Definite picture moment.

The food they gave me caused me some qualms too. I'm going to miss chicken makhni and daal chawal. I suppose I could always start cooking! Eventually.

At Abu Dhabi airport, I still didn't have a pen and I looked around the shops, wondering how I could travel without a pen! Me! With the perpetual notebook and other accoutrements!

"Hi again," the guy with the backpack was waving in my face. Did I really pack my glasses in my checked-in baggage?

"Hello. I'm looking for a pen."

He offered me three but I took two. Then we decided to walk together because of my fear of losing my voice because I hadn't conversed with anyone in so long got me over my usual reluctance to begin chatting. He was a stereotypical accountant who read only biographies and thought a degree in social work was boring. Since he was working in Toronto after doing his bachelors from UoFT, he was able to offer some comfort: the first month or so is awful and you'll miss home a lot. But then you'll make friends and you'll never want to go back!

I think of LUMS and agree, hoping it would be half as good as my four years in Lahore and that I could find half as many awesome friends here.


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