happy days are over.


no one has yet asked me the real question about my trip. what was it like, sitting on a plane next to uncle tim for a total of twenty-three hours? in the mabuhay lounge, i asked him how long our flight would be. "twelve hours to manila," he said, "but first we have to stop in guam. i don't like that." my uncle tim loves to tell people things he doesn't like. so far, i can add prima donnas, interludes in karaoke songs, and layovers in guam to the list.

he had a beer or two while we waited in the mabuhay lounge. he was drinking keystone light, his beer of choice at the airport. everyone knows his beer of choice at home is coors light. we were getting ready to leave the mabuhay lounge when all of a sudden, he asked for another beer. "we don't serve drinks on the plane, sir," the bartender told him. uncle tim knew this. he had, after all, been to the mabuhay lounge twice already that same year. "i'm not going to bring it on the plane," he said. he opened the can and downed it, right there on the spot.

we sat next to each other in the business class section. when the stewardess offered us the warm towels, i said, "this is nice." "i told you," he said. we both looked at the screen ahead of us. he told me that there was a map that showed how long it would take to get to the philippines. "i like that they have that," he said. he ordered another keystone light, while i just had water. later in the night, around his third or fourth beer, he confided in me: "i'm surprised they served me this much."

he ordered arroz caldo for breakfast. the sight of it made me want to vomit. i couldn't stomach any airline food, especially while we were bumping up and down through the pacific's clear air turbulence. i would try to sleep, but mostly i listened to music and looked out the window. the stars were clear as could be. "i can't sleep," he said. "normally, i can sleep, but for some reason, tonight, i can't." i just nodded. it was hard to sleep, as our footrests refused to stretch out far enough for absolute comfort. "your mom can't sleep, either," he said. "she's just reading." i looked over, and sure enough, there was my mom with the light on, reading her book.

for most of the night, while most passengers slept, uncle tim talked with a stewardess. i actually admired this about him. even though he's bald, sloppily dressed, and his face has become slightly wizened by decades of drink, he still has confidence enough to talk to any girl, no matter how pretty, or how young. he told me the stewardess' story. "she's from texas. she's studying to be a nurse while working, too. she's a nice girl." she did seem like a nice girl. it was awful that in my head, i was already wondering what she was doing talking to uncle tim. was she looking to marry for citizenship? did she think he was rich?

it's terrible that these are the intial thoughts that go through most people's brains when one person is talking to another person of the opposite sex. there must be something she wants. where is this world where people just talk and be friends and not have any motives. these only exist in worlds of fiction, the kind students come up with when they're first starting to take creative writing classes. those boring stories where the characters are flat and nothing ever happens.

as we deboarded the plane to begin our vacation, i trailed behind uncle tim. he looked back at his stewardess and said, "merry christmas." i saw him hesitate for a second, it was kind of like that, fuck it, i have to do this kind of a moment. he snuck past me so that he could give her a hug.

i knew that moment. i replay it in my head a lot.

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