I woke up at 4:42AM, three minutes before the alarm went off. I showered quickly, drank my espresso, ate a cookie and went downstairs to the waiting taxi. Normally, the trip to Damascus drags forever but the two hours and thirty minutes drive to the airport flew by so fast I couldn’t believe it when I found myself in front of the terminal. I checked in, a good time ahead of my flight and waited indifferently in the boarding area. I had The Great Gatsby with me, a gift from a dear friend, but saved it for the flight just in case I needed a distraction. Sure enough, the plane was full of babies, nervous mothers, weary looking men and a wild bunch. It always amazes me how aviation, the most regulated industry of all, permits the airlines to provide travelers with such ridiculously uncomfortable seats. All airlines CEO’s and airplane designers should be forced to sit for the rest of their lives in these miniature stools. I endured the ordeal like a sardine in a tin box while the two passengers I was stuck in between snored all the way to London. F. Scott Fitzgerald provided me with a much welcomed escape.
Heathrow is not an airport to be enjoyed. The mammoth structure of terminals is too spartan to exude any sense of creature comfort. I was relieved when I was finally able to walk out in the cloudy English sky. The series of meetings I was to attend was held in a business hotel not far from the airport. I stood patiently waiting for the shuttle bus to take me to my final destination with a group of worn-out travelers, one of which stood right next to me, totally oblivious to my presence. From behind my foggy eyes I took notice of her deep blue ones, of her elegant stance, of her small body, of her proud breasts, of her curved butt, of her shapely legs, of her manicured toes but most appreciably of her sculptured hands.
Normally, any man in my position would notice and appreciate these minute details. But when a single woman is endowed with them all the perception turns into a sort of passion of such a nature that it feeds upon itself. I just had to keep looking. Oh My God, she is gorgeous. There is no way on earth that such a tranquil beauty is not matched by a splendid and formidable mind, I thought. I went even further in my private musing; this woman must be a poet, an actress, a novelist, an artist of a sort, a … doctor?
A hematologist she turned out to be. We checked in together, a different clerk handling each. "Welcome Dr. McDonald", I heard hers say. For the first time since my twenty minutes journey with the most gorgeous doctor in the world started, she glanced in my direction. "And you’re here for the Shipping Meeting Mr.…. Abufares", my clerk smartly yet unnecessarily announced. Oh, damn it, I cursed under my breath. There she was, a specialist in the disorders of the blood no less, attending a conference with internationally distinguished specialists from all four corners of the globe while I was to spend the next two days with a bunch of ex-seamen turned penguins in business suits. I didn’t mind the washed out sailors. As a matter of fact, they were the jolly lot in the group. What I dreaded most were the business suits who had never wetted their feet.
We walked together to the elevator, the good doctor and I. Like the true gentleman I wanted her to believe me to be I gave her way first. "Thanks", she said. Her voice sounding more like little birds giggling and making love than an ordinary human voice. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her hands all the way up. I mean, there I was, in a six by four confined space with a woman that defied description and all I could stare at were her hands. She must’ve thought that I was the timid and shy type. She wouldn’t believe that despite her astonishing beauty I chose to be infatuated with her hands. We emerged from the elevator and headed in the same direction. The corridor stretched on and on forever. I was walking a step behind and her butt swayed left and right with perfect rhythm. No, she was not joggling nor jiggling. Her butt was merely quivering under the comfortable khaki cotton pants. She then came to a stop in front of her room door and I did the same in front of mine. They were across from each other, our doors, our rooms. I fumbled with my plastic key as she did with hers. She dropped hers on the floor as I dropped mine. We bent to pick them up and we couldn’t keep the insouciant façade any longer as we both burst out laughing. She was one second faster than me in opening her door and as she disappeared with her bag behind it our eyes met then... The last I saw of her was the crimson polish on her nails… on her pulchritudinous hand.
I showered under a stream of deliciously hot water. The fluent spray fingered my neck and shoulders, the small of my back, my thighs and legs like a pair of expert hands, Doctor McDonald’s own hands. I closed my eyes and surrendered to the tantalizingly arousing reverie. Only if we humans were truly transparent, I reflected. How different the world would have been if our emotions and feelings were extraneously projected for all to see. I tossed and turned in bed as I always do on my first night in a new one. The mattress engulfed my body like a warm womb while the pillows swallowed my head with comfort and delight, yet I could not sleep. The two hour time difference didn’t help either and no sooner than I had a shut eye than the clock brought me to tomorrow.
She came in as I was having breakfast. She was dressed in a stunning suit that made her unreachably good-looking. From the distance, I was fascinated with her calves. They were white and slender and led to her unbelievably attractive feet. I could glimpse her pedicured toes while my scrambled eggs waited then got cold in my plate. She sat not far but she obviously hadn’t seen me. I watched her nibble her fruits of the morning and drink her milk. Oh, how she drank her milk. Then as graciously as she walked in she stood up and left the room. I fumbled with my napkin, fork and knife but was already too late.
The morning session dragged on and on. I struggled to keep my eyes open, I resisted with all my force a complete brain shut down until with the mercy of God we were granted a 15 minute break. I didn’t want to leave the meeting room at first but then decided to step out and have a change of scenery. Coffee and cakes were served near the entrance and next to the shipping throng there stood a group of well dressed hematologists, mostly men, peppered with the presence of a few stylish women. My doctor stood on the side speaking to a colleague, smiling ever so mystifyingly and holding a cup of something in her hand. I walked toward her as if drawn by a magnet. I only wanted her to see me walking toward her and she did. I can smile mysteriously as well I wanted her to read in my eyes and I was egotistic enough to believe that she did.
The rest of the day ate me alive. I was burning to get out of the room. There was an enclosed swimming pool I noticed earlier with an open bar. I went craving a glass of Scotch on the Rocks but there at a corner table she sat alone. She had already changed into something more comfortable yet no less tasteful. She saw me all the way from afar this time and didn’t even attempt to hide her smile. I was a few feet away when she said at last: “You know I have seen more of you since WE got here than I saw any of my colleagues in the conference.” “Did you see the guys I’m spending my time with?” I asked. “I‘d better keep running into you or I will lose my mind.” She extended her hand smiling: “I’m Fenella McDonald,” she said, “and you are Captain …?” “Hands”, I replied, “Abufares I mean.” I held her hand in mine and thought of distances stretched across thousands and thousands of miles, erased, nullified, annihilated by a mere touch.
“Would you care to join me,” she asked. I did and the gloomy weather of London turned out to be much more bearable after all.