Homeward: The Flight From Hell

Milan's Malapensa airport is located a considerable distance northwest of the city; you can see the Alps quite clearly for the entire bus ride. At the terminal, more uniformed guards strutted around holding submachine guns. We noted these things in a dull, uninterested way.

And at this point, I'm afraid, the narrative turns ugly. Artistically unsatisfying as it is to end on a negative note, the flight homeward was a nightmare.

I still don't know what was wrong with us. Something we ingested in Milan, no doubt, but we never did figure out what, or where. For whatever reason, we boarded the plane at Malapensa airport feeling lousy, and by the time we changed in London we were genuinely sick. The symptoms would not make pleasant reading; enough to say that I spent the entire transatlantic flight doubled up either in my seat or in the toilet. Phyllis wasn't hit quite so hard; she merely spent the trip with her head in a paper bag. The flight crew showed very moderate concern.

The customs inspectors at O'Hare took one look at us and asked if we needed an ambulance. They didn't even bother to stamp our passports.

So the trip ended badly. (And let's not even get into the remaining details, such as the shortcomings of the Chicago hotel where we spent the night before flying on to Tulsa.) Still, we didn't regret making it. We got there, we saw the people and places we wanted to see and did the things we wanted to do - mostly, anyway - and we got home alive and nothing wrong with us that a few days' rest wouldn't cure. We weren't even altogether broke.

And - especially at a time like the fall of 2001 - that's about as good as anybody can ask for. Isn't it?