I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror at the Frankfurt airport and saw the marks of India. I was wearing a brightly printed cotton tunic and an equally colorful shirt with a clashing pattern. The rainbow of fabrics continued on my woven, mirrored, camel motif purse slung over one shoulder. My little backpack was on my shoulders-I had packed most things into a woven plastic rice bag and sent it with checked baggage. I had a string bracelet on my wrist from the Shiva temple- four small beads and some sort of wrinkled nut. There was a red dot and a bindi on my forehead, my hair had a visible pink tint from playing Holi, and most of my fingernails still had a fuschia Holi stain. I had bags under my eyes and looked dazed from sleep deprivation and jet lag after leaving Chennai at 1:50am local time and a ten- hour flight here to Frankfurt, six hours behind. On top of all that, I was still dressed for 90 degree Chennai weather, but it was rainy and 50- something in Germany. I had a four-hour layover and was hoping for a nap.
Thank you, sleepinginairports.net. I took advantage of the free wifi at the Frankfurt airport and consulted this site from the comfort of a business lounge easy chair, accessible to any shmuck like me despite clearly not being a business traveler. With help from the site I located a quiet corner with a padded bench. I set an alarm, wrapped a scarf around my eyes as a sleep mask, used my backpack as a pillow and another scarf as a blanket, and settled down.
Before I knew it (and luckily, because the volume was off on my alarm) I woke up and had about a half hour to get to my gate. Then I was boarding a thinly occupied cabin headed to Philadelphia. I’m not sure why the flights between Philly and Frankfurt were so empty, or how they can cover costs with so few passengers, but I was glad to stretch out on about four seats and enjoy the pillows, blankets, and on-demand movies as I had done on my flight out two weeks earlier. The 8-hour flight from Chennai had been packed full. And so I went, over the ocean, between vacation and non-vacation, suspended between my personal worlds and between earth and sky. Getting back to the family, work, grocery shopping, and the like would come soon but for now I was still at leisure, floating westward and back to ordinary life. I would consider all I had seen and done and the lovely long friendship I have had with MB. I would return to my family and to writing when I could. And to planning the next trip!