“What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country… we are seized by a vague fear, and the instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. This is the most obvious benefit of travel. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being… There is no pleasure in traveling, and I look upon it as an occasion for spiritual testing… Travel, which is like a greater and graver science, brings us back to ourselves.” -- Albert Camus, 1963
Violeta barely made it. While I was also running late. I lost track of time having sushi with my friend, Polina in Brooklyn. We split the bill, said our goodbyes, and I hopped on the train to do several transfers before arriving at the airport. I got through the gate looked around with no Violeta in sight. She was supposed to land at JFK two hours ahead of the time I needed to be at the airport. I rang her and prepared myself not to sound too worried. The phone went straight to her answer machine. We had 40 minutes until our flight departed.
I imagined myself getting off the plane in Bulgaria, not knowing how her Aunt or Uncle looked or even if they spoke English. I would be lost and foreign.
My phone started to vibrate, it was Violeta.
-Where are you?
-I am still on the runway.
-I will delay the flight. You just run as fast as you can.
-I will try.
Ten minutes later. My phone went off again.
-There is a long line at the gate. I am not going to make it.
-No, you will! You just need to try. Just run to the front of the line and tell the security that your flight is leaving soon.
My fear of being alone in Bulgaria magnified. I felt feverish.
I looked at the clock above me. Ten minutes until our flight leaves. I was going to be in Bulgaria alone without my friend. I could feel the tears in the back of my eyes. I looked down the long corridor about a thousand times, scanning all the people to see if one of them was Violeta. I imagined her running with her bags hanging loosely from each arm, a look of desperation. But this time instead of seeing unrecognizable faces I saw Violeta, strolling casually with a morose look upon her face. We had eight minutes until our departure.
By the time we got to the terminal, the turquoise and red airplane was completely boarded. We made it and needed to celebrate. Air Austria had a full bar and fed us well. Violeta learned from her boyfriend how to properly drink scotch. We ordered two. Violeta taught me and we laughed at how ridiculous we looked sifting the brown liquid through our front teeth. We needed to unwind.