On some occasions, certain details are more questionable than others. For example: the day of the week.
Could it still be Friday? Most likely. But it surely wasn’t a Friday because I am in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), pushing a trolley and ambling around like a drunken sailor. Had it not been a three a.m. flight, I might still be in bed sound asleep, thoughts drifting and unconsciously thanking God it’s Friday. Clearly, my travel ticket shows that Friday has passed. So down with a book and a Suduko puzzle in hand; my ice-coffee getting watery and warm with neglect, let Saturday finally come.
After soaking most of Malaysia’s tropical sun and satiated myself with Nasi Lemak alternating with Nasi Goreng and Teh tarik to boot, I have to briefly leave all this behind in exchange for winter and wine. I am heading to Paris. The city coveted for its lights, glamour and where retreating writers of all kinds search for inspiration (throw a little romance on the sideline if you must).
This jaunt will be completely different from all the flights I made before as the destination will not be as important as the journey itself. Late last year during spring, the American railroad company Amtrak offered a residency program for writers on its long-distance treks. Out of the 16,000 hopeful applicants, 24 individuals had been chosen. All boarded a train; finding inspiration for their writing in a railroad compartment equipped with food, bed and maid services. If this fanciful notion could be adapted to a long-haul flight, I thought I should give it a try.
And so with the absence of rail tracks and up close panoramic landscapes, I boarded a Qatar Airways 777 on a 14hour journey, I had encouraged myself to set forth on a mission of converting seat 7A into my very own private writing atelier. I love that it’s close to a window as it will offer me views of a full moon, oceans that look menacing yet mysterious, and city lights that dim softly from down below, quite the antithesis to what one would see on a rail journey. Armed with a 40 page-manuscript outline that I have been shunning to finish, dusted and pulled out from under my bed the night before, it will become my writing project from takeoff to landing. The sheets will soon occupy my tray table and the next four hours will be nothing but literary consumption.
As the QR 851 flight cruises at 36,000 feet with an airspeed of 500 knots or almost 575 mph, it will be impossible not to feel any trepidation about when will inspiration strike. I began to imagine my moments of mental block and frustration. Then I thought about how easy it is to reach for a pillow and wrap myself with a blanket until the next wonderful idea starts to germinate; finding comfort on free flowing champagne and munching my guilt away with almond nuts.
I have to admit, I don’t usually travel in business class, but I never realized how comforting it was to see red roses almost sprouting on the walls and under a bar table, lazy-boy like seats, table cloths ironed to a crisp and leather menus on a plane until I experienced them on this flight.
Two hours after takeoff, flying over the Bay of Bengal, perhaps the usual turbulence will start and that would shake things inside the plane. However, I won’t be too worried knowing that wine glasses are made not to fly off the table as are my thoughts. Once we approach the Arabian Gulf, the sky will give way to a cloudless night. The moon, more than ever will glow at its brightest, provoking a change of mood.
The time I’ll reach Doha; breezing through its new Hamad Interantional Airport with an hour’s layover, the changing panorama will provide me with a break. I’ve heard about the $6.8 million giant yellow teddy bear that sits in the middle of the airport. Perhaps I will ascend to the Al Mourjan lounge for a quick bite and hit the showers to help activate some dormant thoughts. When I board the aircraft that will take me to Paris, I will be prepared to be transported not just by the plane, but by the city’s romantic monuments and scintillating lights.
I intended to continue writing the remaining 20 pages before landing in Charles de Gaulle Airport or simply Roissy to the French. Fast forward, as we cross the Balkans and then Bavaria; with all its green vegetation and heaven-soaring jagged mountains, it will be just the perfect antidote to meditate on. Empowered and recharged, words shaped up and paragraphs spiral filling up page after page – manuscript close to final form. A glimpse through the window, the Parisian lights will shine luminous and bright. I imagine the cold, the wine and the city’s soft spot for romance. I am heading somewhere magical. Landing in Paris, I will finally put the manuscript aside.