One of the many perks that come with being an expat in the Middle East is the amount of vacation time. This year, a combination of 6th of October weekend and an early Eid meant lots of jetsetting, relaxing, and exploring. We were all off to a variety of locations: Ethiopia, France, Romania, Germany. I had been particularly excited about Europe because it would be fall, there would be leaves, and I would need a scarf.
But for me, Eid break was off to an unexpected start. Two days before leaving, Jesse and I realized our flights departed at approximately the same time, so we talked about sharing a driver. But after asking him again, Jesse said he’d rather not deal with the hassle of being late or me being late. Mildly insulted, I resolved to not even meet him and Colton in the airport for a beer. This changed the night before, when Colton offered to drive me (and Jesse) and I felt better, but Jesse’s peculiar message had made me feel unwelcome.
As I was getting checked in with Austrian Airlines, Jesse appeared beside me, looking happy and dapper.
“Nicole,” he said, smiling widely, “the reason I didn’t share a cab with you this morning is because I’m leaving Egypt for good.”
My excitement at seeing him quickly turned to shock, then sadness. He gestured toward Colton, who stood behind us with a huge trolley of luggage.
“We’ll talk over a beer inside.”
Over airport beer, I learned that Jesse had made this decision on Monday for a number of reasons, one being that someone had fired an RPG at the satellites down the street from us a few days earlier.
“I cleaned out my flat, cleaned out my bank account, and called my cleaning lady and her family this morning and told them, ‘I’m gone for good.’”
Colton told me that he had only found out that morning, en route to the airport: “I showed up and Loraine was there. I thought she was saying goodbye, but then Jesse came up and was like, ‘I’ve got a ton of shit because I’m not coming back.’”
Colton went off to get burgers, so Jesse and I had some time to chat. I did my best to not get emotional; after all, he seemed happier than I’d ever seen him. No one knew about his hasty departure. Loraine and Chantelle found out that morning, Colton promptly after, then me. It was a bizarre way to begin a vacation.
I gave him my copy of Dracula, which he noted probably meant more to me than it did to him, but he and Colton were off to Romania, so it only seemed appropriate.
“I hope our paths cross again someday,” he told me as we parted ways. I felt like crying, but the man at check-in had hinted that I might be able to upgrade to first class, and I didn’t think they would want some weepy girl crying with a bunch of posh businessmen in first class. To be fair, I’d asked for the upgrade. When he told me the flight was overbooked, he added, “Don’t worry, you’ll travel today.” And I responded, “Travel…first class?” with a big cheesy smile. It worked. He found me in the departure lounge, asked for my boarding pass, and scribbled out the seat number, printing “3C” in blue ink over the top of it.
So there I was, my first time in first class, about to visit Susannah in Germany and feeling quite low. I was happy for Jesse, but on a selfish note, sad that he wouldn’t be around anymore. Behind me, pool players from another team in the league were excitedly chatting about their winning streak and all I could think was, “I’ve lost my co-captain.”
He was one of few guys I considered to meet multiple parameters: drinking buddy, someone to call for dinner and a chat, someone to play pool with. Once the plane took off, I found First Class to be enough of a distraction from my woes: swanky hors d’ouevres, gold-handled coffee cups, and a napkin bib that came with a baby clothespin so you could pin it to your shirt. (I meant to save mine but got too caught up in the wine and cheese that came around. The man next to me was wearing his, but I did not have the courage to ask him for it.)
In the end, though, even drinking coffee with my pinky haughtily raised in the air was not enough. 30,000 feet found me torn between feeling happy for my liberated friend and sorry that my Cairo life would be so obviously void of his company. I could only hope that landing in chilly Germany would kick my mood into an upswing.