“If my bag is searched, expect delays.”
“Oh, I’m not bringing in any prohibited items. But I took the LEGO boat and car and the diabolo. And a bag full of the French cosmetics industry’s finest creams and soaps. And herbs. And… other stuff I bought, like pens.”
“But at least, we don’t have booze or French food. Which, come to think of it, makes us look suspicious.”
Our flight was scheduled at a decent hour—1:40 p.m., French time—so we didn’t need to get up early. In fact, we slept until 10:15 a.m. and left unceremoniously, military style. Grab backpacks, head out.
I can’t stand goodbyes, anyway.
There are life moments I savour, but there are days or hours I’d rather fast forward, like the useless “last evening,” “last night,” “last morning” before a departure. Nothing good ever comes out of them but doubts, fear, regrets and sadness.
We walked to the bus stop half-sleepy, another one of my trademarks—I trick my brain into believing that we aren’t actually leaving, ah ah, ain’t I smart.
I pretended to read during the twenty-minute bus ride to the airport. It was technically impossible since my eyes were watery but I played the part convincingly, turning pages on my Kindle at regular intervals just in case someone had bet a million dollar I would cry my heart out.
I just have to, you know, go back three chapters and read them again if I care enough about the book and want to know what happened.
I thought I did a very good job of looking completely normal but again, define normal… and come to think of it, Mark, unusually quiet, stared at me for the entire bus ride and hold my hand so maybe my stoical performance wasn’t Oscar worthy.
Unlike last year, there wasn’t a huge lineup at the Air Transat counter so we checked in faster than planned. Then we stood around because French passengers tend to save all the seats and swear that “family members” will “join them soon.”
The flight was predictably long, tiring and boring. I couldn’t find a good movie to watch but I saw the first three episodes of Designated Survivor, which I actually enjoyed. I slept a bit but it was hard because they were many crying kids and babies. Mark may be annoying, stubborn (“you are NOT watching Assassin’s Creed!”) and he hates airlines’ kid meals (what’s wrong with mac and cheese?) but at least, he’s quiet and respectful and I’m thankful for that.
We landed in Montreal seven hours later and the endless wait started. We joined the lineup in the huge arrival hall before customs and immigration, then we waited around the baggage carousel for an hour.
“Shit. We’re stuck behind the Beijing flight again. It’s gonna take forever to get our bags.”
Of course, we missed the 3:30 p.m. Greyhound bus to Ottawa.
“Do you have any change? I only have a toonie and I can’t remember how much a bottle of Coke is with taxes.”
Small Canadian inconvenience, balanced by the fact bathrooms are plentiful and clean here—no small perk after a long flight when you need to wash up.
I used one of the Air Canada vouchers to buy the guys a footlong sub (I have a few meal vouchers from all the times we missed connections in Toronto), then we waited for the next bus at 6:25 p.m.
“Do you need to go to the bathroom?”
“Eh, what am I? Five? … Actually, I do. Mark, come with me.”
“I am NOT going to the bathroom AGAIN! I went like… once today.”
“Yeah, newsflash—you usually need to pee more than once a day.”
There are no assigned seats in Greyhound buses, so even though we had a ticket, we lined up outside with about two thousand people—slight exaggeration here—to make sure we wouldn’t miss it.
That’s when we learned the fucking bus was thirty minutes late because it was “stuck in traffic in Montreal.”
“Does your phone work? I should call my dad.”
“Maybe… Let me look up for their number.”
“Oh, just call home.”
“WHAT? They’re at our place? Oh… yes. It’s Juliette.”
“Mommy! You didn’t say zàijiàn.”
“Everybody around heard the conversation, I’m not shouting ‘bye bye’ in Chinese, Mark, sorry.”
And so we waited between stop number 5 and stop number 6 because it wasn’t clear where the Greyhound bus would actually park and where all the people standing in front of the arrival hall with billions of giant suitcases precariously stacked on trolleys were going. Surely, they weren’t all heading to Ottawa…?
“Which Canadian airport doesn’t suck?”
“We gotta find a better connection next time. This is ridiculous. We landed at 3 p.m. and we won’t be in Ottawa before 9 p.m.”
“I swear, if the bus doesn’t come, I’m walking to Ottawa.”
“Can I watch the tablet?”
The 6:25 p.m. Greyhound bus finally left the airport at 7:30 p.m. The sun set, the on-board Wi-Fi connection died and the driver turned all the lights off.
“Mommy! Oh, you missed it.”
“The tree looked like it was hugging its friend. Oh, you missed it again.”
“No, a cloud that looked like a monster doing… you know, the thing that… Oh! A lonely tree!”
“And the clouds and the trees and…”
Twenty minutes later, Mark fell asleep in a middle of a sentence. He is a mix of us—I tend to ramble when I’m tired and Feng can go from wakefulness into sleep in a matter of seconds.
“I’m sorry Mark… you gotta wake up. We’re here.”
“Yeah. Are you okay?”
Mark nodded and I sighed with relief when he stood up. I can’t exactly carry him like I used to when he was a baby.
My in-laws were waiting for us in the quiet Ottawa bus station, each behind a luggage cart we wouldn’t need because we have backpacks.
Suddenly, I felt very tired when I listed what I needed to do at home—give Mark a bath, make the beds, start a load of laundry, make dinner and find snacks, maybe go to the supermarket if the fridge was empty…
“Mommy? What’s next?”
“Huh… for you, shower and sleep.”
“You forgot something.”
“It’s almost 10 p.m. Mark, and you’re tired. Look, we’ll see.”
Another chapter is starting… again.