“Decisions, Decisions”: A True Love Travelogue Series – Part 1

24 November 2012

I woke up a few minutes after 5 o’clock in the morning, as usual; save that there was nothing usual at all about that day. It was the day that would change my life forever.

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I felt really tired, and my back muscles ached from staying up late the previous night. I got up from my bed feeling dreamy, as if what transpired the night before was indeed just a dream.

It was his call over Skype that had awoken me, and while I knew he was telling me something important, I found it difficult to shake my sleepiness off. Less than five minutes into the video-call, my eyes had begun to droop again and his words were only a mumble-jumble to me.

“So I cut my hair”, I very faintly heard him say.

“You what??” I jolted.

“I asked my mom to cut my hair, see?”

“Why?!”, I exclaimed in panic.

“Because you wanted me to.”

“No!!!!”

“Cecille”, I could hear desperation in his voice. “I thought you said I will attract unwanted attention over there and you don’t want that”.

Now I do remember telling him that. “I don’t know…I don’t know…I liked your long hair. I’m not used to seeing you like that!”…I seemed almost a child, unreasonable. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted anymore. Confused, tears started rolling down my cheeks.

“Oh, Cecille, please don’t cry.” He was almost pleading. “I have to go now, okay? My parents are taking me to the airport. It will grow back soon, anyway”.

It felt really weird for him to be consoling me then. He was the one who had one foot of his hair cut off and yet he was the one who was trying to make me feel better. I know he was kind of “attached” to his hair. He’s had it long since he was 11 years old. Looking back to it now, I thought it was frivolous for me to even mention the haircut. Of course, I tell him I never forced him, I was  just…sayin’.

When we first started talking online, I didn’t really care about his hair. I thought it was hot and I was attracted to that mysterious side of him. As the day to our meeting drew closer, I became concerned. I think it must have been my conservative influence. Men with long hair are sometimes stereotyped as bad boys: wild and probably addicted to dangerous drugs! How ignorant does that sound?

Not all long-haired men are like that of course, but it was all about the image of it. I knew my family was going to meet him and I just wanted him to make a good first impression. I was like, “Who knows? We could end up getting married!” 😉 Little did I know, he was going to impress them anyway with his charms, his very polite demeanor and, as my father said, his outstanding table manners. But more on that later.

After sleeping a while longer, I got up to check my messages. I wondered if he’d left me anything before he boarded the plane. Boy, did he!

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“Great! That’s all we need”, I muttered.  A glitch right in the beginning of the two-week itinerary that we’ve been planning for months is a downer, I thought. My nerves were already wracked at the thought of seeing him, finally in the flesh, after four months of relentless correspondence. I was on the cusp of being stressed.

I waited until 8am for business hours to begin so I that I could speak with the hotel personnel regarding his reservation. He was supposed to arrive at 11 o’clock that night so I called the hotel to let them know that he would be arriving the next day instead. The unexpected detour in Alaska was going to delay his flight for 3 hours. This also meant that he was going to miss his Beijing to Bangkok flight, the last flight for the day. He was going to sleep in a hotel in China, alone, and catch another flight to Thailand on the following day. I could imagine how anxious he must be, travelling halfway across the globe for the first time, to places where he doesn’t speak the language, while encountering these mishaps at the same time. The horror!

I smile at the thought of him making that gesture to see me. I’ve got to admire him for being so determined. I was actually sad that I had to cancel the chauffeur service I had previously booked  to pick him up. I wanted him to at least be comfortable when he arrived, after all the stress of intercontinental flight. I asked the lady if they could move the booking for the following day but she said they were fully-booked. Oh well! I tried.

I decided to let the stress of the rescheduled arrival go. There was really nothing we could have done about it. I thought: it’s only one night. I was going to see him tomorrow. At 1pm, I went about with my other scheduled appointments: Last minute girly preps that, without getting into much detail, included a nail spa. I would later reap the fruits of my tortured labor when he says the very first words that came out of his mouth upon seeing me. 😉

It took me several hours to finish and when I was finally settled in the couch, checked my messages again. Lo and behold! He was online and was typing to me, possibly as fast as he could!

“I’m in China. We did not stop in Anchorage”

“What?!?”

“Will you be able to pick me up?”

“Uhhh…I changed my plans for the day. I’m here at my mother’s place”. Yeah, I forgot to mention that!

“……….” Nothing from him. It said he was typing.

“Oh!” He finally replied. Goodness! What was I doing?!? I must be freaking him out!

“Of course, I’ll pick you up!” I typed in haste. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to do it in my condition.

“Okay. Boarding now. I’ll turn this off”, he said.

I sent a quick goodbye then his little green circle was gone. I exhaled in desperation.

Now what? Decisions, decisions.

I jumped up from the couch, picked up my backpack from the floor, and began packing haphazardly.

“Where are you going?”, my mom wondered.

Silence. You can almost hear the wheels turning.

“I have to go, Mom”, almost a whisper.

“Go where?”

“Back to my place”,

“But your foot!” Right! I forgot to mention that too. I had stepped on something earlier. I needed minor surgical intervention and my two feet were bandaged. Did I mention it was painful?  I’d been downing pain killers the whole day.

“I’m okay Mom, I’ll be fine”. She was observing me as I was cross-checking my stuff with my list in  hand.

“I thought you’re staying here tonight.” I didn’t respond.

“Just tell me what is it, okay? So I’d know.”, she prodded…I was worrying her.

“It’s Ian.  He’s arriving tonight.”

What ensued was an exchange between a worried mother and a stubborn daughter who will do what she wants, even against advice.

“Will you at least let your brother take you to the airport?”

……

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……

For all of my life, my family and friends were always there to support me. I’ve always had people to consult with for all of the major decisions I’ve made. But as I said, it was not an ordinary day.

“No. I’m doing this on my own”.

I’d made up my mind.

TO BE CONCLUDED

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IAN.Y.S.M. Entry 001- A haircut and a plane ticket: Now The Leap!

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Wow.

Looking in the mirror that day, the change seemed drastic. Almost a foot of hair, gone.  I felt like I had gone from metal to ’92 grunge with just a few snips of my mom’s scissors.  Yeah, that’s right – I’m 37 and my mother cuts my hair.  It’s a rare occasion, perhaps once every year or two.  She’s the only one I trust to do the simplest, most even cut.  My fear is that a hairdresser or barber would get scissor-happy at the sight of 15 inches of straight hair on a guy. But this cut was particularly drastic – probably the shortest my hair has been since I was about 17.  Typically, I’ll request a healthy length around my shoulder blades, but today was different: I had somebody to impress.

That “somebody”, Cecille, had impressed upon me that my abnormally long hair would really stand out in Thailand.  It would attract attention, potentially unwanted.  Here in New Paltz, New York, no one really gives me a second look; but I’ve had long hair throughout my life, so I’m well aware of the negative attention that it can garner.  Basically, I couldn’t care less; it’s something that I had accepted a long time ago.  However I wasn’t sure how that kind of negative attention would translate for a “stranger in a strange land”, as I felt I was about to be.  Of course, Bangkok is a metropolitan, international city, full of foreign tourists and western ex-pats.  But to me, it was different of course; I’d never been East of France before.  So the idea of attracting attention that wasn’t familiar to me, of being a foreigner AND a freak somehow, wasn’t appealing.  Even more importantly, the idea of Cecille feeling awkward around me was even less appealing.  So there goes most of my hair, and I look unfamiliar to myself.

So I tie my hair back, and then I look just the same as before.  No one will even notice. And, I was right about that – since I’ve been back from Thailand about 6 weeks ago, not one of my friends or coworkers noticed my missing foot of hair.

I was restless that night; staying at my parent’s place, because they’d drive me to the airport in the morning. Tomorrow was a big day…my mind was on overdrive. First, what would the trip be like? I’ve never travelled so far and for so long.  But mainly, it was my reason for going that kept my mind racing; Cecille. What would meeting her truly be like? Would our chemistry translate to spending actual time together?  What would become of us, and what adventures were in store for the next two weeks?  Yet even as my mind raced with these questions, there also a sense of calm, resolute empowerment; whatever this turned into, my choices over the next days and weeks amounted to me taking control of my own destiny with my eyes wide open, and in a way I had never attempted before.  Come what may, I was ready…and it felt amazing.

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After a somewhat restful sleep, and a nice breakfast with my parents, I’m upstairs and in a skype call with Cecille.  We’re both really excited, knowing that what we’ve been anticipating is just hours away.  I would be a liar if I said that it was easy to get to this point; after all, we were both carrying a lot of hopes and even fears into what we were about to do. ..and there is really no way to predict such results.  But we had grown to care for each other over these past months, and both very curious about what the next step could be – so this was enough to keep us happily excited, and very very ready despite how nervous we sometimes felt. Case in point, I show Cecille my new lack of hair.  Well, not the reaction I was hoping for.  She told me she felt like crying, I had cut too much off.  “But I did it for you,” I told her. “I didn’t want you to feel awkward around me – I want you to LIKE being around me!”  Her response was to tell me that I had ruined her fantasy about being with a rock star.

Damn.

I did spend some time attempting to convince her that my hair grows quickly, and that if things go well with us, she’ll see it in all its long rock star glory again eventually. I was at this until my Dad started yelling up the stairway that it was time for us to go if I didn’t want to miss my flight.

Soon after, we left to drive to the airport.  My parents were excited for me; I know that they liked to see me so happy and excited to embark on such an adventure.  They knew I hadn’t done anything new or fulfilling for myself in a couple of years.  A spontaneous voyage to the other side of the world, to be a tourist in an exotic land and spend time with a woman I was getting close to was a positive thing for me and they were certainly more supportive and excited than nervous or worried. But, they are parents, so being nervous and worried was an inevitable part of it.  However, aside from the usual “be aware, keep your wits about you” kind of stuff, I didn’t get any lectures – save for my father’s one piece of sage advice: “Don’t get her pregnant.” Ha.

The security procedures at JFK weren’t as bad as I had expected, after reading numerous accounts of TSA’s strictness and even misconduct in news stories online.  Finally, I get to my gate and find a place to charge my phone.  I also check out the plane through the window: an aging 747. I looked at the hulking thing, imagining its immense weight getting off the ground and carrying me over Canada, the Arctic, and the eventually Siberia and into China.  My thoughts were interrupted by a flurry of activity around the gate counter for our flight. What was going on?

As I approached, I noticed a sign, which seemed to be a hastily-typed page affixed to a small sign stand. It hadn’t been there just a few minutes before.  Basically, it stated that our plane would need to stop in Anchorage, Alaska due to some “technical issue” and that thus our flight would land in China at least 3 hours late. Shit!!!, I thought, as I snapped a pic of the sign with my phone.  I then went to the counter and explained that I have a connecting flight to Bangkok after Beijing.  The harried attendant explained to me that I would miss the connecting flight and would need to wait until the next day in China for the next one.

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What a mess! I hastily sent the pic to Cecille, but I knew she wouldn’t see it until she woke up some hours later.  After a few minutes I just tried to relax and accept it: this was beyond my control, and I will make it there eventually. Nothing will stop me.

Nothing will stop me.  -That’s really how it felt to me.  I had set the wheels in motion as soon as I felt welcomed by Cecille, and since they began to roll they haven’t stopped.  I had to get to the other side of the world to see what would become of this; I wouldn’t be deterred by inconvenience or even fear, and the last thing I would allow myself to do would be to carry around such a big “what if?” with me for the rest of my life. I was going to meet this beautiful and intriguing girl that made me smile (and sometimes drove me crazy) no matter what!