Posts Tagged Burma
Her nails scraped against the sealed flap as she looked around to make sure no one was watching her. Everyone seemed to be concerned about the directions for boarding gates or taking items out of their suitcases to meet the approved weight for checking bags.
Ala thought about calling her parents to let them know she was leaving the country. She was used to doing so even if she was only leaving the city, and couldn’t imagine their worry when they realized they had no idea where she was. This however, was before their hobby had taken such precedence in their lives.
If she called her parents, and they bothered to pick up the phone, they would try to stop her from getting on the flight. Her father would probably drive to the airport. They would see Danno and would want to talk to him. They would think he was trying to coerce her to leave the country.
The seating area was hot and she could feel the bottom of her feet sticking to the leather in her sandals. She loosened the straps, took them off and stretched her toes. She ripped the edge of the envelope open slowly.
She looked up and saw a security guard towering over her. He wore a hat that was too small for his head and had a radio in his hand ready to notify someone if he needed help.
“I have to ask that you put your shoes back on.”
“Why?” She said.
“Well, it’s a public area. And shoes are required for sanitation reasons.”
Ala looked past him at a young woman changing a baby’s diaper on the floor. A man next to her was sleeping with a stream of drool dripping onto his shirt. Another man ate from a cardboard container and picked at his ear. It was hard to believe that she could be singled out as being the most disruptive out of these people.
“What about them?” She said, pointing at the group.
“What about them?” He said, shifting his weight, growing impatient.
“They’re clearly not taking sanitation into account.”
“They all have shoes on.”
“You mean to tell me that I can wipe up shit in the middle of this sea of people, but I can’t take my shoes off for a minute? Even though I’ll have to take them off for security?” She heard her voice getting sharper.
“Yes,” he said, smiling. His teeth were brown around the gum line and it bothered her. She didn’t like taking criticism from people whom were themselves making the same mistakes. She had always had difficulty with supervisors that she didn’t feel matched her intelligence. Now it made her furious that a man was referring to her as unpolished, when he himself seemed to have poor hygiene habits.
She picked up one of the sandals and stood. Her intention was to smack him across the face with the dirty sole.
“Is there a problem?” Danno said, approaching with the boarding passes.
“Yes. He won’t let me take my shoes off for a minute even though all of those foul people over there are doing whatever they want.” This she said too loudly and summoned several dirt looks.
Danno smiled at the guard and gently removed the sandal from her hand. Dropping it to the ground, he said, “Do me a favor and put you shoes on.”
“Why?” She said, knowing that she would be putting them back on, but feeling ashamed that the security guard was going to get his way.
“So we can get on with the trip. Come on. Just do it. Please.”
She rolled her eyes at the guard and sat back down. Danno nodded at him as he strutted away. Ala nearly broke one strap by tugging it roughly across her foot. She straightened her dress and swung her purse over her shoulder.
“I got our tickets. There’s only one issue. We couldn’t get on the same connecting flight from Seoul,” he said.
“Oh really?” She said, deflated.
“You’ll get there before I do.”
“How long will we be apart?”
“About twelve hours. We’ll be so exhausted at that point, you’ll barely notice. I did my best.”
“I know. Thank you,” she said.
“We are carrying on, so security should be quick.”
She followed him into the snaking line and waited, making sure she did not make eye contact with anyone.
“And how are you today?” A man checking their tickets asked.
“We’re fine, thanks,” Danno said before Ala could respond. She could tell he felt like she was yanking him into the quicksand with her. She wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to drug her before they boarded the plane to avoid any confrontations.
They found a table by the window in the club cafe. The glass slanted forward enough to be able to see planes taking off. The linens and china were elegant and Ala felt under dressed. She put on a pair of sunglasses and arranged her hair so that she had more of a side part.
Danno ordered a bottle of white wine for them since it was so hot and a platter of oysters. Ala worried that her stomach would turn if she had only that before flying and decided to order a chicken salad as well.
“Are you excited?” He said, beaming at her. Among her anxiety, she had forgotten how much she looked forward to spending each day with him.
“I can’t wait to get there,” she said.
“What’s the first thing you want to do?”
“Meet you at your gate.”
“And after that?”
“Visit the Bogyoke Market and buy hats.”
“That’s a great idea. I read that it’s common for scalps to start frying within the first hour.”
“The book used the term “scalps frying?”
“Of course. Crouton?” He dangled his fork in front of her face.
“No thank you,” she laughed. “But what are you going to do while we’re apart?”
“Work, no doubt.”
“Of course. I used to work out of Guyana years ago.”
“Don’t you think you’ll want a new job?” She said, toying with the hard boiled egg on her plate.
“Well sure, but not until I learn Burmese.”
“What about working in tourism?” She said. He placed his hand over hers on the table.
“Believe me, you won’t want me to have a different job. No one will bother us. That’s the beauty of working remotely.”
“Alright,” she said, finishing her wine. He leaned across the table and kissed her.
They lingered at the magazine stand so that they wouldn’t have to pace around the gate. Ala bought several books and a large blanket. Danno bought cough drops and a neck pillow.
“My throat always hurts during plane rides.”
“Maybe they’ll serve some nice warm fish soup to soothe you.”
He grabbed her and, pinning her arms to her sides, blew against her neck.
“Stop!” She squealed.
The cashier rolled her eyes as she handed them the bags.
The first six rows of the plane were empty and Ala hoped the stewardess would permit them to move up to first class, even though it was unlikely. She settled into her window seat as Danno tucked the blanket around her legs. Takeoff was smooth and the few people on the flight were quiet. Ala drank ginger ale to settle her stomach and was soon asleep.
Waking up, she looked at the black sky out the window. She liked the idea of flying over the ocean at night, of being midair in the pitch black. Danno was asleep next to her and she was wide-awake. She wanted to wake him and pull him into the bathroom after her, something she had never done. She felt like a restless honeymooner.
A subtitled movie hummed from the screen in front of them but she had no interest. She took one of the new books from the bag and into page three her eyes began to burn. She took her purse from under her seat and found her lip balm. Applying it, she saw the envelope and took it out. She finished opening the flap and unfolded the pages.
Danno drove slowly, letting other cars pass them on both sides of the road. Ala held tightly to his arm, slightly squeezing it every time she thought about bringing up the wallet.
“I feel better,” she said.
“So do I. You look better,” he said, gently rubbing her knuckles with his thumb, sending shivers down her spine. “We should buy some boots at the airport. For hiking.”
“Do they sell them there?” She asked.
“I’m sure. They have everything else you could need. You’ll also have to teach me about all of the poisonous plants and trees to avoid.”
Ala tried to recall the books she had read about Burma. When she first became infatuated with the idea of a visit, she had chosen the books on a romantic whim, rather than practical preparation. Sitting in a dust ridden hidden corner or the library, she had paged through each volume, running her fingers over the pictures printed on the old paper, smiling. The more severe the argument with Jase was, the more seriously she studied the text.
She learned about arrow poisons and gloriosa root. She had chosen a wardrobe from a catalogue fit for hiking through the jungle toward the love temple. It was important to wear sturdy soled shoes, but not anything that could be destructive to the land. All of the clothes she had with her now were frilly and pretty, meant for a summer filled with parties and boat rides. She would have to wear layers until they could find proper gear.
“We still haven’t eaten. Is the club okay?”
“Fine,” Ala said. Danno cared a lot more about the kind of food he ate than she did. Her parents had always ordered out when they were home. Neither could use a microwave properly. Prime rib was a favorite, along with buttered noodles for Ala. It was the only dish she wanted to eat because meat and onions terrified her. Her parents never pushed her to try anything else.
Danno reached into his suit pocket and pulled out an envelope.
“This was in the mailbox,” he said, handing it to her.
She felt the grain of the thick ecru paper that she remembered to be Emmanuel’s stationary. It matched the envelope from the letter he had given her which proposed the summer housesitting job. She put it inside of her purse. It was important to relax before the flight. If she were to have another outburst, Danno would not let her anywhere near the plane.
He pulled over on the shoulder before the airport entrance. A car pulled up and dropped off a man with shiny shoes and teeth. He approached the driver’s side.
Danno stepped out and opened the trunk. The man stepped aside and twitched slightly. His head moved back and forth rhythm Ala only noticed because she was staring. She let herself out of the car and hurried over and he placed all of their luggage on the curb.
“What is going on?” She asked.
“Give me a minute,” Danno said in a voice that wanted to yell at her, but held back. He closed the trunk and tossed the keys to the man. Then, he opened the door to the other car and gestured for her to climb inside.
Rainbow was behind the wheel and nodded in the rearview mirror. Danno climbed in and tapped Rainbow on the shoulder. He started driving and turned on the radio.
“I sold the car,” Danno said.
“Airfare,” he said.
She had forgotten to take money into account. It was the reason she hadn’t gone to the temple sooner. Now she believed she hadn’t gone so that she could meet him. Still though, she knew he had a lot more money than what the car cost. The sinfully beautiful car that he could have had many of for all she knew. She didn’t know if the car meant anything to him, but it meant a lot to her.
He smiled and looked out the window. He was happy about the transaction. She nestled into the nook of his arm and took a deep breath. He wasn’t attached to things like she was. He was used to moving on.
Rainbow pulled into the drop off lane at departures.
“Bye,” she said. He nodded. Danno got out without saying anything. An attendant came over with a rolling cart and loaded their bags onto the deck. The wheels squeaked and made her very nervous, like everyone was going to notice them and know they were trying to get out of the country.
The airport was very crowded for it not being a holiday weekend. The line for security was wrapped around three cues. There were suitcases stacked on trunks and strollers used for random bags and children clung to their parents legs.
“You don’t look so good,” Danno said, his face nearly losing color. “Go sit down. I’ll get our tickets.”
Ala pulled out her compact mirror. Her face was deep red, almost resembling a rash. Her feet barely moved forward. She had to find a way to calm down. This trip was what she had wanted. This was the reason she took the job. She made her way over to a scratched plastic chair and sunk into it. She watched families and business men pass by, nearly colliding into each other from opposite directions. No one seemed to look where they were going. Her hands shook as she reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope.
“No, I just have read so much about the rainforest preservation over the years and the mountain chains and the Ayeyawady River. It all sounds so captivating, it would be impossible to not get carried away there.” She was surprised she had remembered so much about Burma and was glad, because only talking about the temple would make her sound crazy.”
“When are you hoping to visit? I’m assuming not during rainy season?”
“Probably not. Are you familiar?”
“Well, I know rainy season is no good for elephant riding.”
“I’d like to go as soon as possible.”
“You’re that anxious to get carried away?”
This was a first kiss moment. Instead, she turned to the huge piece of meatloaf on her plate.
“I think I am.”
As they were finishing the meal, one of which was the best she’d ever had, the waitress brought out another large platter.
“Bananas Foster with a side of Butterscotch.”
“Thank you,” he said.
“This looks incredible. Do you need the butterscotch?”
“Apparently that’s how everyone’s been eating this since 1931, so I think so.”
“How did you even know what my name was?”
“I read your driver’s license.”
“That’s right,” she said, sitting back in the booth. She took at bite of the soufflé and the crunch on top melted her in mouth. “This is outstanding.”
“I’m glad you like it.” She took several more bites and realized there would hardly be enough left for him. Luckily, the Waldorf salad and egg salad platter arrived and he seemed to like both just fine. He brought a napkin to his lips and patted them gently. “How did your job interview go?”
“Pretty well. I got the job.”
“Really? That’s wonderful. What are your days going to be like?”
“Well, I’m sort of an estate manager.” She noticed the Pink Lemon Aid getting to her and tried to speak clearly. “I’m staying in the house you picked me up from.”
“It’s a great house.”
“I like it, so far at least. I just moved in today.”
“So, your time is going to be pretty open you’d say?”
“I would. I really only have to make sure it is maintained and watched over. It’s a great job for right now.”
“I wouldn’t mind doing that all day.”
“It’s a good way to get to normal,” she said and decided that sounded cryptic. “What I mean is, I’m saving up for a trip.”
“Where are you planning on going?”
“It’s strange really, but I am planning on visiting Burma.”
“Let me guess, you have family there?”