My mother and I sat in uncomfortable seats, screwed down into the floor of a long hallway that was inside a metallic sphere. Another two or three hundred people were crammed in there with us. Not for the first time, I had the overwhelming sensation that this was a very bad idea. I’ve been in the same exact situation, so bizarre to think of abstractly, dozens of times in my life, and yet – even though I’ve gotten over my need to obsessively watch the security video, as if not watching it will jinx me somehow – I still clench up as the reality of the contraption around me thunks into my brain. We shiver, we shake, we shudder – uncontrollably, impossibly vulnerable, we sit there in our seats, utterly inferior to the mechanics of the technology we are enclosed in.
But enough of this awe-stricken claptrap.
We landed, and I had one of the most remarkably welcoming experiences I’ve ever had on entry into England. The man who took my passport and joked with my mother about pubs looked a little bit like Alan Rickman. He’d also been a bodyguard to Salman Rushdie, back in 1989, when the fatwa was first declared against that famed writer. Apparently, Mr. Rushdie wasn’t very nice to his bodyguards at that time, but then again, he was also probably scared out of his mind. I’m going to read his new memoir (the excerpt of which I’m greatly enjoying in The New Yorker) and I will probably end up liking him for his writing, if nothing else. So many writers are not really what they seem through their writing – it’s a shame, but it doesn’t much matter, since I probably won’t meet many of these authors whose work I revere.
I also found out that because I am of a Middle Eastern nationality (I’m also half-American, but this clearly doesn’t minimize whatever risk the English government has in mind), I’m going to have to go and sign in with the police here at Oxford. Creepy? Yes. I keep wondering whether it’s for my protection or for the protection of others. I suppose that it’s for both.
“Daddy nasty.” Those are the only words I noticed Will Shortz saying right now. A funny couple of words to stumble upon, but then again, they’re rather typical for how this evening has been going. When my mom and I went out tonight with a friend of my mom’s (the lovely woman who picked us up from the airport earlier today), we were privy to a first date of a man and a woman in their fifties. We assume it was a first date, anyway, because they spoke to each other with great excitement but with many first-date questions and inquiries. We think they found each other online and spoke on the phone a few times before meeting. The woman drank a glass of white wine and then ordered a Rose, and the man stuck to coffee. The woman began slurring her words a little and the man’s voice became kinder, softer, more intimate, and he rushed to get the waiter the moment the woman asked him to order her some food. The conversation then turned, quite quickly, to the man’s recent depression, to his opinion that it was an “organic depression,” and from there, he moved on to saying that he thought sex would help. He added, almost at once, that it was intimacy, really, that he thought would help -“touch, you know, skin to skin,” he said, demonstrating by rubbing his two, very large hands together. The woman, so giggly and smiling before, turned more serious, but at this point we needed to pay our bill and we lost track of their conversation. Right before we left, though, we heard them agree – “I think we’re on the same page about this,” the woman said.
Oxford is beautiful, though rainy and gray so far. I think that it will prove to be extremely interesting.