I fell instantly and completely in love. The beautiful French back packer with the kinky reddish brown hair asked if I minded if she rolled the cigarettes. I was more worried that the security at Beijing Capital airport may think she was rolling something other than cigarettes but I had no objections. Quite the contrary I found it almost romantic. I think everyone should learn how to roll cigarettes, and at least once in their life try one.
There was much in this brief relationship to love about her, enough to have me wondering if I had passed the threshold from mere interest to full out head over heels love. First she loved to travel and had been travelling to the type of places I liked to travel. Places with no four star hotels or McDonalds. Places where you can only get there through a bumpy and possibly fatal car that had been duct tapped and hewn together by ropes that had been placed there in various decades.
I had not had an adventure like that in a while. I had, earlier this year applied for a job in Herat, Afganistan. It is a place described by a friend of mine who frequents Afganistan as a place that is very boring. I assume that it is why the Taliban never really showed there faces there. Too boring even for them. Much to my disappointment I never got that job.
Had I gotten that job I would not have been able to sit because we would have been talking about the real Afganistan and not the nightly fill of snuff that people get on cable news, I would not have had the chance to listen to this moments ‘newest love of my life’ tell the adventures she was telling me about. It was a pity she was on her way to Mongolia, I would have much liked to sit there and speak with her about her time living in Madagascar. No doubt while we had coffee she would be cleaning a gun. I could picture cleaning a gun with its part laid out neatly on a oily towel, with her hand rolled cigarette slowly burning in an ash tray If we were not in an airport at the time I most certainly would have asked her if she ever had a gun.I would be more surprised if she had never had a gun.
We walked outside the airport and lit up her hand rolled cigarettes. She, in an instinct known only to real back packers, asked a complete staranger if he had a light. If one travelling companion does not have a light, it is usually the case that the other one does not as well. We stood there silently for a few moments. The repressive humidity of the evening temporarily forgotten as I would glance at her , then the moon, then at her , then at the moon again. Somehow seeing the moon reassured me that this real , I am not sure why and I have learned that accepting things the way they are is often the best path.
We stood there, savoring the feeling of the smoke entering our lungs and chatted a bit. She told me a story of a random French song from the 1970’s playing while she was standing outside the previous airport she was in. She told me how she laughed and no one got why the French song, sandwiched between thick slices of silence was so funny. I don’t suppose many of her friends would understand either. But I did , and it was funny.
It is frustrating being a real traveler and not a “Disney “ traveler. Most of the questions we get , most of the things we get asked to write about, is usually the things that are least important about the trip. The most in depth question I ever got was I ever in any danger while I was in Thailand. Funny, I did travel to a war zone , not only traveled to a war zone but was in an area where people were involved of the ancient art of blowing oneself in cafes and no one asked me that question, but when I travelled to one of the safest countries in the world I get asked that question.
We returned to the airport and went to find some information about how she could connect with her flight to Mongolia and she found out that she could go downstairs to get the information she needed despite it being two in the morning. We said we would meet up again , perhaps for another rolled up cigarette but we knew we would not see each other again. I suppose we did not want to say goodbye.
About forty minutes later, having changed into some fresh clothes I walked by the door we had previously returned from. I saw my beautiful French adventurer with her big orange back pack outside. She was getting ready for her adventure, I was waiting for mine, and we both went our separate ways.