Again, I woke up late. By which I mean, 10am. I’d been arguing with The Englishman until late, about the stupid car thing.
Why my opinion mattered to him was beyond me.
Just buy your Aston Martin and admit you’re having a mid-life crisis!
Anyway, my waking up late was no impediment to starting my day. I’d noticed that there was a sort of laissez-faire-ness to the Spanish lifestyle, which I sort-of admired. I was my father’s daughter in the land of my mother. Literally.
I had a round of meetings set for mid-morning on Friday. Since it was the end of the week, and I’d been in suits for days, I had reached business dress-overload.
My concession to formality was to put on a blazer over a sundress.
My main meeting was great (the taxi ride over, less so, as the driver read the paper as he drove!). It was at one of the buildings I’d been at the night before — where the Georgetown Europe alumni had hosted a cocktail party. The Spaniards, with their easy-going ways, had left the cleanup for the morning.
The meeting ended and I sat outside, until the mid-day sun was too hot and I retreated to lunch.
In the late afternoon, I headed for the airport. While Spain was lovely, I’d had a ridiculously productive week — I’d been working US and European hours. It had been one of the busiest weeks in recent memory. Hong Kong had been busy, but this week made that one look like amateur hour.
I was approaching my limit.
My driver arrived and took me back to Barajas Airport, where I changed into jeans (flying in a short dress is not fun); checked in; waited for assistance. This was where the Spanish laissez-faire thing became not so charming. After 25 minutes of waiting for the fellow who was supposed to assist me, I sat sitting and staring out over the railing down at baggage claim until I’d had enough. I decided to go for my gate myself.
But I wanted to go to the “VIP Lounge” first and send some emails.
Upon entry, I was told I had to go to the “R-S-U” gates, which were 40 minutes away by train. My flight boarded in about that same amount of time. This was getting ridiculous. There were no signs in Spanish OR English to direct me, and the Lounge staff was not helpful.
I was exhausted. I had one working foot. I decided to do as the Spanish did — I decided I was largely unconcerned about any of what was to come. I wandered the airport. I sent a series of ranty text messages. I didn’t much care about the consequences.
In my wanderings, I came across a home goods store. Right in the entry, there they were — two perfect tin penguins. Immediately, I knew I had to have them. I wasn’t sure whether they really matched my home decor at all. I bought them anyway.
As it happens, some penguins mate for life; some for only a breeding year; most are monogamous. (Ironically, so are wolves; vultures; albatrosses; termites. The things that are scary and strange — at least they have each other.) I love penguins. I love the idea of their fidelity; flexibility; their strange and mysterious habitats and ways.
But I didn’t have much time to contemplate that. I was approaching: late for my flight status.
So I continued to wander through the airport, desperately seeking gates R-S-U. Searching for a train. While most people commonly associate existentialism with the French, there was a weird element of waiting for, seeking things that simply weren’t going to happen or appear as I step-together-stepped through Barajas Airport.
Eventually I found my gate. And I was off for JFK.
I wound up in conversation with my seatmate — an sixtysomething year-old man from New York, on his way back from…Ibiza. He was Mike Tyson’s former manager; retired from boxing promotion and back in the music business. He’d started in music; promoted some of the biggest concerts in the US back in the ’70s. He’d just come from hanging out with David Guetta and his wife.
You’re totally talking to the wrong person, I laughed, I barely know who that is.
We talked about life; our respective careers; our families. He’d been married for 36 years and had three beautiful, successful children. He spoke with loving admiration about his wife. We talked about my divorce; my terrible taste in partners.
I think you’ll get married again, he said, In fact, I have great faith in it.
I rarely talked to men who were still on their first wives — and if they were, they weren’t usually so happy. Then again, I typically talked to people on planes, and I’d found that unhappy people usually hit the road to ease the discomfort.
What was I running from?
I contemplated this over my Spanish “vegetarian” lunch:
There had been so many questions over the years about fidelity — mine; that of others. And I’d had to think so much about what I wanted. What did all of it mean? All I knew was this:
The angels were singing somewhere. These moments were blessings in disguise — and it wasn’t for me to know yet what they were or what they meant. Nothing made sense, nor did it have to. Answers would come in due course — in the proper time; just as I was coming back to life.