As often, the trip starts the evening before with a dull terror; I realise I’m flying the next day with a “holy crap”. They say pleasure is in the anticipation, I bitterly reflect the converse is true.
Though it’s only an hour, it will be an hour full of anxiety. I’m not sure whether the fear of the night before is a fear of the flight or a fear of the fear I’ll feel on the flight, if you see what I mean. Whichever it is, I have a bad night’s sleep.
In the morning, things feel a little better. We’ve got a sunny day ahead of us, we’re meeting with friends. The flight seems gloriously far away. But there’s still a slight tightening of my gut. My mind says, “it’s still pretty damn close”.
It hits in the taxi to the airport. I’m going there now. It’s really going to happen. Drinking a beer at the airport I start to feel nauseated. The drink doesn’t go down well; I hope it will calm me a little so I force it.
Airports make you feel a bad person. Queue after queue, inspection after inspection. Take your shoes off please sir, unpack your laptop, I need to pat you down. Final call, be careful or you’ll miss your flight. Rush, rush, rush. I could do with cushions and calm right now. Instead, hard edges and mania.
Strapped into the plane, I realise before I could escape, now I’m really going. I’m trapped in my seat. My knees squash painfully against the seat in front. I can’t move; we move down the runway and into the air; I wonder why I put myself through this.
Nothing can distract me for more than a moment. Not the National, not the happy Vampire Weekend. Not even the dulcet, calming, reassuring tones of Stephen Fry. I can mask, but not quell. On long haul flights it dulls to a throbbing ache; short hauls are panic all the way.
But then we start our descent. As I lean over Rose to see the clouds coming closer I start to feel better. We’re lower, we’re into the clouds, I can see cars crawling along roads below; the ordeal is nearly over.
A wave of relief and euphoria washes over me as we taxi. The hardest part of the journey home is over.