Hey guys! Today I wanted to share a descriptive narrative I wrote in 2009 during my first semester of college. This piece is very near and dear to my heart because it was the first time I used creative writing in an academic setting, and also because it chronicles the beginning of my first real-life adventure, and probably the turning point of when my life began to really evolve. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
by: Rebecca Dreiling
It was January and it was cold. Not like the cold back in the States. This cold felt different. I could smell burning coal the moment I stepped off the plane and onto the boarding ramp. Erik was excited; I felt like a frightened lost child. I had never been outside of America yet there I was moving to the most foreign of all foreign lands simply because I was in love with a man. As we walked down the tunnel towards the terminal I could feel goose bumps rise on my bones. There were Olympic posters plastered everywhere. When we approached customs, it was quiet and everyone seemed fatigued. While we waited in line, I noticed there were cameras at what seemed like every corner and crevice of the airport; it is a communist country after all. I felt like I was under a petri dish being scrutinized by mad scientists. We eagerly waited to show the guards our passports. The guards that weren’t stamping our little blue lifelines and verifying identities were standing around staring at us, heads slightly cocked to the side, with very child-like curiosity, as if they had never seen a foreigner before. The airport seemed oddly deserted for a city that boasted over fourteen million residents. I watched as a big wet red seal permeated through the first page of my passport. This dream was quickly becoming a reality.
We finally reached the baggage carousels. I stood in front of the conveyor belt and leaned the bottom of my knee caps against the metal siding the way I’ve always done since I was little girl. We watched together as each bag came down the ramp and plopped onto the dirty rubber. Like a child clinging to her mommy, I desperately and eagerly anticipated the arrival of our belongings – the only things besides Erik that served as a comfort blanket in this strange new world. Everything we owned had been condensed into four suitcases, one of which was filled entirely with our most valued possession: our books. We watched together as the carousel emptied, bag by bag being plucked up by its rightful owner. Thirty minutes passed and there was only one bag left. It circled a few times until a lonely little businessman claimed it. Upon seeing his tired hands connect with the leather, I quickly came to the realization that our bags had not arrived. My tear ducts filled up almost as quickly as my mind did with polluted thoughts. Erik must have sensed how I was feeling because he looked at me with a very calming expression and softly put my hand in his. He didn’t have to say anything. I felt safe again, albeit lost.
Leaving an international airport empty-handed is a feeling I can’t quite describe. The only thing I could possibly think to compare it to would be the feeling a mother gets when she realizes she lost her infant in a public place. I felt naked and exposed. My mind came up with a million different scenarios of what could have happened to our luggage: “Was it still in Los Angeles and never made it onto the plane?” “Did someone take it by accident?” “If someone took our bags, what would they keep and what would they throw away?” My mind probably would have went on for several more hours but Erik was there to quickly bring me back down to earth. “I love you,” he said. I smiled and felt the warmth of my love for him fill my entire body. He was, after all, the reason I moved there. But I couldn’t help but feel like we were stuck in a reel of film being played in my head while I was asleep somewhere. Erik was the only thing that felt real, but how could I be sure?
We finally arrived at our hotel. Our room wasn’t anything fancy. In fact, it felt more like a dorm room or a hostel. The décor was brassy. The room was small, but had a large bed with a comforter the same color as a pink glazed donut with sprinkles. The room had high ceilings and strange-looking electrical outlets. There was a lonely little TV stuffed in the corner, with only one channel in English. There was a desk with a water cooler next to it. The window was decorated with bars and cheap floral drapes. The bathroom had a tiny stand up shower and a toilet with strange buttons on the top of the tank. The strangest part of the room was the sign above the toilet. It wasn’t in English, but the illustration transcended any language barrier. It clearly stated that we shouldn’t flush toilet paper down the toilet. This added much-needed comedy relief to my frightening day.
Between the twelve-hour flight there, the loss of our luggage and the realization that I was five thousand miles from everything and everyone I knew, my mind was flaccid and I desperately needed rest. I crawled into the bed which was like crawling onto a piece of plywood. It was hard and not comfortable, to say the least. I held Erik’s hand, looked at his beautiful face and then closed my eyes. It took me several minutes to fall asleep while residual thoughts dripped from my head onto the pillow and dissipated into thin air. The last thought I remember having before going comatose was, “I hope when I wake up, I’m back in America. I hope this is all one big dream.”
Suddenly a huge light burst through the window! I woke up in a panic, not sure what was happening. It took me several minutes to figure out where I was. I walked to the window like a zombie and peered through the drapes to see what was illuminating the room. It was a huge burning ball of fire in the sky and its light was beaming down onto the window. The sun had risen. I looked to the left and saw men working diligently in the cold weather and tall buildings which I couldn’t see the night before. I turned around and looked at Erik sleeping, and thought to myself, “Holy crap. I’m in China.”