Art by Gianne Encarnacion
During my flight to Dubai, I realized I was seated next to a fidgety man. I didn’t mind, although I felt a bit sorry for him. After all, he was seated next to someone who changes seating positions every three minutes (me), and then there was my mom by the aisle who sleeps like a log and with a face that’d make you think twice about excusing yourself to use the lavatory. It wasn’t going to be a comfortable flight for any of us.
At first it was the seatbelt. When he finally found the other strap, he asked me if he clasped it right. “First time ko kasi,” he said with a sheepish smile. He was maybe in his mid-30s, clutching his envelope stuffed with travel documents.
I said it was okay, and tried to make small talk. It might make him feel more at ease, I thought. “Magbabakasyon ka po?” I asked.
“Ah, oo,” he said, turning away. “Magbabakasyon lang.”
He was already facing away from me, but the hesitance in his voice was loud. When we were about to take off, I saw him typing away on his phone — an old Nokia unit, the kind that would last you days without a recharge. Maybe he wanted to send one last message before we’d be too high up for a phone signal.
It’s been more than a month since we got here. The City of Gold, as they call it, and it’s clear why. We got to explore a bit on our first few days, but even then it felt different.