If someone had asked me on that day what was going through my mind during the drive to the airport, I would tell them that I was so focused on talking to Sam, making the most of our conversation, that I hadn’t really thought about the “afterwards”. And who plans a future with a person they’ve met only a handful of times, especially with someone who was a thousand miles away? You’d have to be deliriously crazy to want to do that, right? Well, shortly after Sam dropped me off at the airport, I found myself bewilderedly stuck in that category. To this day, I am not sure what was it that made me open to the idea of a future with Sam. Perhaps it would be helpful if I backed up a little, and go over what happened during the hour-long drive to the airport?
The drive from Arusha town to the Kilimanjaro airport was about forty-five minutes away, but neither of us were keeping track of the time. I don’t recall much of what we said, but what I do remember is that the conversation flowed effortlessly, despite the fact that I had to ask Sam to keep repeating what he just said due to his Swahili-accent English. Since we were ahead of schedule, he actually drove to the parking lot of a carwash instead of taking me directly to the airport. As we stopped there, I thought, “I guess this is farewell?” And it wasn’t so much the words that were spoken as the growing tension between us that made me think—wait, is there actually more to this? Was I actually planning for this to go further than just—I had a fling in Africa? And here’s a fun fact about Sam. Apparently, since he was in grade school, he’s always been shy around girls—he was never someone to give off flirty, romantic vibes. One of his good friends, Julius, attested to this and recounted the time when a bunch of their friends locked Sam in a classroom with a girl and wouldn’t let him out until he talked to her. Apparently, while he was the biggest prankster in school, having no trouble poking fun at everyone (girls included)—but he could not, for the life of him, hold a conversation with a girl alone. I think at that moment, I caught a glimpse of that very shy, younger version of Sam. He didn’t say much, but from what I remember from that afternoon, he said something along the lines of hoping that we could keep in touch. “Huh,” I thought to myself, trying to envision what that would look like. A lot of emails and texting, that’s for sure. I wasn’t too keen on the long-distance aspect of it, but with each passing minute I spent with him, I found myself giving in to a deep sense of familiarity that I couldn’t shake. So, I simply nodded and said, “Sure. Let’s keep in touch.”
In Tanzanian culture, PDA is more frowned upon than widely accepted, although I am seeing more of it in the recent years, especially in the younger generation. Interestingly, it is more common to see grown men holding hands while walking; a very friendly and common gesture among guys, but oddly, one seldom saw men and women showing any signs of intimacy in public. Sam certainly isn’t a big fan of PDA, and I still joke about how he can still be mistaken for my safari guide when we are out in town, because his hand is usually nowhere near mine. So if you’re waiting to see if he gave me a dramatic farewell kiss at the gate, you’d be disappointed to know that when we arrived at the airport, after a short awkward pause, he gave me a quick, friendly hug like he was sending off his cousin. And that was good-bye.
Still a bit stunned by all the very unexpected turn of events, I promptly found my seat on the plane, sat down, and started to jog down everything that has happened in the last 48 hours. If you haven’t noticed, I am the journaling type, and on that flight, I think I actually used up two pens as I documented my encounter with Sam, and my thoughts on a possible future with him. At one point, a tall, pretty Ethiopian flight attendant stopped by my seat and asked: “Are you a writer?” Her smiling brown, beautiful eyes gazing curiously at me and at the pages that were filled with my rushed handwriting. “I guess, sort of?” I grinned back, not knowing that one day I would actually follow my childhood dream and write novels, with the starry, African sky as my idyllic backdrop.
Oh, and yes, the answer to my question in my last post is 3). He told me that he slept in until 10am with a small hangover, and in an effort to look more presentable to meet me again, he decided to go with a clean-shaven look. Here’s a picture of us on that day he drove me to the airport—a selfie of our 20-something year-old selves.