My favourite air journey and where it took me.

Scoil Mhuire, Convent Of Mercy, Trim, Co Meath, Meath,

Taking Flight: My Favourite Air Journey and Where It Took Me. The airport was busy, far too busy. Suitcase wheels dragged noisily along the freshly mopped floor. I know, I saw the cleaner do it herself. Despite her tired expression, I appreciated the additional cleanliness. Business men speed walked through the terminals, expensively stressed and expensively dressed. An aura of “My watch is worth more than you”. Perhaps I was judging too harshly, but people watching a welcome distraction from the anxiety crawling up my chest, because that woman has three children. How can she have three children? Doesn’t she know three’s a bad numbe-? Back to people watching. A couple pass by us, newlyweds I’m guessing. She dropped the handle of her suitcase, causing it to fall to the floor. The no longer clean ground, because busy business men and giddy children has just walked all over it. Who knows what’s been on their shoes? Their dirty, dirty soles? The man reaches down and picks it up for her, what a gentleman. She smiles and takes it back, linking their hands together. The same hand that had brushed the ground, then the handle which had landed on the dirty, dirty ground. Now all those germs are on her hand and she’ll keep touching things, making them gross and bacteria laden. What if she eats somethi-? This isn’t helping anymore. With a sigh, I pull my hand sanitizer from my pocket and lather it over my hands and wrists. “How much longer now?” I ask my mother from beside me, her knee litters from nerves far more excited and positive than mine. “Just another few more minutes, they’re almost ready now,” she points to the air stewardess preparing to open the gate. Her hands steady as she shuffles her super important, confidential looking papers. With a nod, I return to staring at the people passing by us. Looking back now, I severely question my methods of keeping my anxiety at bay. Sooner than expected, we begin packing up our books and phones into our carry-on bags to join the queue. I have to slide my novel behind my prayer book so it isn’t third in the line behind my other two books in my rucksack. Three’s a bad number, as previously established. Two’s tolerable. The queue is shorter than expected, mostly American tourists returning from visiting Ireland for the first time. We were heading to Texas, my aunt worked over there and still happily resides there in the humid Texan air with her fluffy mainecoon, Delvin. I swap places with mum so I’m the seventh in the line, seven’s my lucky number. Well, it’s my disorder’s lucky number, as it’s the only one that doesn’t make me feel like I’m suffocating when I use it. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is its name I’ve come to learn. I had just been diagnosed at the time. I swap back after number one’s passport has been given the go ahead. It’s okay if I’m number three in a minute, because Mum’s number four and they make seven. I put on more hand gel just to be sure. We both pass with no issue, expect me panicking over her holding my passport for too long. Excuse me, I don’t know where your grubby hands have been, please give it back. My smile was strained, but so was my patience so I’m not that concerned over my possible impoliteness. The plane was stuffy, we resembled tinned fish trying to manoeuvre around each other and our baggage. Personal space seems to be forgotten on planes, much to my misfortune, because that woman is far too close to me and I can’t back away thanks to the man struggling with a ridiculously coloured suitcase behind me. Who even likes the colour orange? Eventually we all settle, which took far too long because orange suitcase still couldn’t get the damn thing in the overhead compartment. I have no shame in saying I was this  close to throwing the thing out the window in an explosion of tangerine and glass. An exhale of relief and exhaustion leaves me as I relax for what feels the first time that day. We were expecting a call from my aunt when we arrived as she also took from a flight into Texas, leaving Washington and a business meeting far, far behind. This unfortunately had caused my anxiety to spike throughout the day, hence my disorder’s hyper focus on germs and organisation – my dinner was prolonged due to my insistence on straightening my knife and fork seven times before I could eat. Towards the end of the flight, I felt my eyes drooping. The sleep deprival from the early morning start finally beginning to catch up on me. But I couldn’t fall asleep yet, not when I hadn’t said my prayers which I said every night before I went to sleep. The self-consciousness of praying in front of other people, especially with those weird head bows I had to do every time God was mentioned, I just couldn’t do it. So I didn’t. I’d use all my self-control and stay awake for the remaining hour. I could do it, I was strong, I was determined. In retrospect, depending on self-control. Strength and determination when fighting against sleep was not the brightest idea. I awoke with a start. Nerves and tension spilling into my body like a faucet, chest constricting with breaths I know I should have been able to take, but just couldn’t. I hadn’t said my prayers, I hadn’t said my prayers before falling asleep. At the time, this was a total disaster for me. Not finishing a ritual or a compulsion (those weird things I have to do) meant that something bad was going to happen. Something awful, terrible, tremendously negative was going to take place and I convinced myself it involved my aunt. I realized that the people around us were moving, grabbing their luggage, some awfully coloured, and children. We had landed which meant that my aunt was about to as well. “Are you alright?” My mother’s voice startled me. “Are you ready to go? Aunty Sinéad just text me and said she arrived a few minutes ago”. This experience has stuck with me, because it has helped me to use logic against my disorder. Because it is a fight, a struggle to counteract my compulsions with “Why?” and “How do you know something bad will happen?” For example, I no longer have to say my prayers every night before I go  asleep, because I know nothing bad will happen if I don’t. I’m not better, nor I am anyway where need it (not that I ever will be, OCD stays with you for life), but it’s step. A simple, obvious step to some, but a step forward in the right direction regardless. This was my favourite flight and it took me closer to battling my disorder, gave me another weapon in my arsenal and that will forever stay with me. Also, looking back on it now, I kind of the life the obnoxious orange suitcase.