As we sat waiting to board the plane, the most magical thing happened. I began to feel less like someone being chased by torch-wielding villagers. My fever subsided, and the risk of blowing chunks all over any number of Chinese businessmen began to vanish.
Whew, I thought. It must have just been food poisoning. (Mental note: reexamine the value of shopping in the “expiring today” section of Fresh & Easy.) Thank God, I prayed silently, that I’m not exposing scores of unsuspecting passengers to bird flu or malaria or whatever it was I thought I had.
But by the time we arrived in Kuala Lumpur 20 hours later, I was miserable again. Thus began a three day quest for public bathrooms that did not require me to squat over a hole in the floor in order to do my bidness.
By the time we arrived in Singapore, I was finally feeling a little more human.
“I can hardly wait,” I said breathlessly, “to get on the cruise!” I had snagged, for an insanely cheap price, rooms on the back corners of the ship with 250 square foot balconies, and I couldn’t wait to get out there and pose, a drink fairly blowing out of my hand, as others looked on from their inferior balconies with envy and despair.
And then I reached for my wallet.
Now, I have always considered myself a positive person. Someone who does not allow life’s little challenges to upset my emotional apple cart.
This is, unfortunately, a self-image apparently manufactured out of thin air, for on this day, I stood in the Changi airport, behaving markedly like a 12-year-old girl forced to miss the premiere of Twilight.
“I wish I was dead!”
“Really?” Sandy replied. “That’s how you’re gonna play this?”
“I’m sick, I have no wallet, this trip is ruined! Ruined, I tell you!”
Yes, I actually said it like that.
When we arrived at the cruise ship, I phoned the Hilton in Kuala Lumpur. They had found the wallet. But getting it back to me would be something else altogether. DHL clearly thought I was a member of Al Qaeda and informed the Hilton in no uncertain terms that there are rules about overnighting a wallet stuffed with ID, credit cards and cash from one second world country to another.
“This is awful!” I shrieked.
“Why?” Sandy replied. “You’re getting your wallet back.”
“Yeah, after we get home. How am I supposed to pay for stuff on this trip?”
“We’re on a cruise ship. It all gets charged to your onboard account. When we’re touring, I have credit cards. What’s the big deal?”
“The big deal is that I am not in control!”
You may not be surprised to learn that these were not words I meant to say aloud. There was a long and painful (for some of us) silence. But in that moment, as Sandy stood gazing at me with an irritatingly ironic smile, I realized how much of my self-esteem in our relationship is predicated on my being what I perceive as the Big Man. The one who takes charge, the one who makes things happen.
“So maybe,” he said calmly, “you can let go for a few days.”
And I was forced, over the next two weeks, to let him be the one in control. To let him take care of me. Which he did, of course, with aplomb.
And I realized that it’s kind of nice to be taken care of. Sure, I have to be a little more flexible. Sure, when I’m not calling every shot I can’t always get everything my way. But I get to feel loved.
I guess even the best life lessons, the most valuable moments, come at a price.
Of course, that price is much easier to pay when you have your wallet.