I flew into Istanbul on a Sunday morning. The flight was nice in the way that I find all red-eyes nice. The opposite is also true.
I couldn’t see the ground below from my window seat, only wing. I watched the peach-colored horizon, a yellow haze above and purple below, deepen to a rosy glow in a matter of minutes. I love red-eyes for this. I love chasing the sunset across the sky. Not letting it happen to me–fall on me in Eastern Standard Time. I find some kind of liberation in it, though I recognize its futility.
When everything was black outside of my window, I ate the surprisingly good in-flight meal and chased an ambien with a mini-bottle of dry white Turkish wine. Sleep eventually came (after a very uneasy trip to the water closet) but only in fractured bits. I am not a great sleeper in general which makes me exceptionally bad at sleeping upright in an airplane seat. Hence, my red eye ambivalence.
After however long, four hours maybe, the woman next to me tapped me awake. I immediately wished she hadn’t, but accepted the meal being handed to me from the flight attendant. I picked at the tray of fruit, cheeses, eggs, and vegetables and drank a cup of tea that warmed me up to the idea of being awake.
I opened my window blind to the same view of sky and wing, only now it was bright and blue and there were clouds below us in the distance. I put on a favorite album of mine, In the Aeroplane over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel, because I was in airplane, and we probably weren’t over the sea anymore, but we had been, so it felt appropriate. It’s an album that always feels good, and it felt exceptionally good then. I looked out the small, dirt-speckled window at the sky unfolding. There was about an hour before we touched down in Istanbul.
I remember the excitement–feeling refreshed in the way that red-eyes always make me feel refreshed, even despite the lack of rest. At this point, I have two months ahead of me in an unfamiliar, foreign, fascinating place. I thought about this without trepidation. I thought about how it felt right to be on this plane, right to be going, and about how long it’s been since I felt that—in the right place. It feels strange in the best way. The words, “how strange it is to be anything at all” flowed through my headphones and into my ears. Indeed. How strange. And how lucky.