Wake up in Brooklyn, groggily shower and grab a bagel before heading to the airport.
Curse the long line at check-in.
Board the flight and discover that I have neighbors. So much for stretching out.
Start watching “Postgrad” on my personal screen and realize that Alexis Bledel’s character’s unemployment makes me feel a little better about my own situation. I might be jobless, but I’ve had one hell of a good time.
Twenty minutes into “Postgrad,” I wonder why we haven’t taken off yet.
The captain then gets on the speakers and says that Homeland Security is ordering our plane back to the gate.
A handful of security agents get on the plane and escort a man off. I start texting and tweeting and figure out that the guy, who is sitting five rows in front of me, is on the no-fly list. Patrick calls me as I’m freaking out to get some quotes about the situation. Then I get a couple texts from friends letting me know that it was a false alarm and the man wasn’t actually on the list.
We take off and I finish “Postgrad” and get through “Couple’s Retreat,” “Invictus” and several episodes of “Glee” and “Grey’s Anatomy” before attempting sleep.
Sleep attempts fail.
We land in Dubai! I take a taxi straight to Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Tickets to the top are sold out already, so I spend the morning alternating between sitting at the base and walking around the mall next door. Dubai malls are a force to be reckoned with, people. As Jon put it in an e-mail to me this morning, “Dubai is one big mall. Not much more than that.” As Jon put it several months ago, “Dubai is the love child of Vegas and Saudi Arabia.” That is, to date, the best definition one could give of this city. Scantily clad tourists and women in burkas stand side by side in line for aquarium tickets. Men in long white thobes with gutras on their heads pose for photos in front of the Burj Khalifa. Sensory overload.
I make my way across town and wander through the gold market, shut down because it’s Friday. The air becomes fragrant and I realize that I’ve drifted into the spice market, also closed for the day. The smells still permeate the air and I’m sure that this place has held those scents for generations. A voice comes on a speaker, but I can’t figure out from where. The afternoon prayers are being called, but the city doesn’t stop moving.
I walk down the street to the creek and see rickety wooden water taxis ferrying people back and forth. I want to ride one, too, but have no real reason to do so. I stand against the railing for a few minutes before deciding to hop on. Hell, this trip is about doing what I want, because I may never have the chance to do it again. I hop on the boat and let the breeze and spray from the water hit my face as we go down the creek, feeling a sense of freedom I haven’t felt in some time. I don’t know a single person in this country, but for whatever reason, that doesn’t scare me.
I hail a cab to take me back to the airport. Sleep-deprived, I think I’m having a conversation with the driver until I realize it’s just me talking. He hasn’t said a word since I got in the car.
Airport, at last. Immigration, security and then Starbucks, because I’ve never been more desperate for a cup of coffee.
And now, I wait to board my flight to India.