Everything happens in threes, so it is said. When we arrived in Copenhagen that final morning, it was the third time we had been to Denmark in less than 2 weeks, and the end of a magnificent adventure.  We awakened easily enough and had a final coffee at the International Café.  Dear Gina, whom we had met on our first day, was there, and we said our goodbyes to her as we enjoyed our drinks.

We had been instructed to meet in the Wheelhouse Bar at 7:30 to wait for our bus to the airport.  It was not too long of a wait once we got there, but I sped around the ship a few more times, looking for people I knew and finding no one to say farewell to.  I was sad that I had missed Miguel and several others that I had wanted to see again.  I had seen Linda the night before and we said our goodbyes on a crowded elevator, tears streaming down her cheeks as she hugged me, saying an “I love you” before the doors closed.  Linda and my mom had grown especially close and both had cried when they said their farewells.  I was sad to also have missed Bohovina and Raj, our friends and companions in Germany.  Time had run very short, though, so I made my way back to the Wheelhouse Bar, and we were ushered off the ship one final time.  I looked at its massive hulk over my shoulder once more as we got on the bus, and we were shuttled to the airport.

In spite of the small amount of sleep we had gotten the night before, we were wide awake, thanks to the wonderful effects of coffee, the legal addictive stimulant that had helped to fuel us each day of our trip.  We stood in line to scan our passports and get our tickets at the airport, the lines thick and twisting in the stark-white, sterile expanse.

My mother and I were laughing together, thinking of all the fun.  We started quietly singing “Yesterday” by The Beatles and smiled at each other, recalling our British pub lunch from the day before, and how we had sung along to The Beatles at our lunch table.  We had come on the trip not knowing how we would get along together in such close proximity, but were pleasantly surprised to learn that sometime over the course of my progressive ascent into adulthood, we had become friends.  Mom and I had long been close but frictional in that closeness, much like polar opposing magnets.  We both have mile-long stubborn streaks and different interests, but love for one another.  We’ve been to Hell and back together, and this trip was our little taste of Heaven.  It brought us even closer, and I am happy to now have that memory to hold onto for the rest of my life.

There were a few people standing behind us as we talked, and one of them called out to me: “Hey! Are you that girl who sang last night?  You did great!”  I laughed and said thank you, and we chatted for a while, discovering that all of us were from Arizona.  We moved through the line and were directed to another line to check in our luggage.  I was recognized for singing by a few people in that line as well, and each time I laughed—nobody has ever recognized me in an airport before, and certainly not for singing. It was a pretty nifty feeling.

I had had my champagne that Mark had given me in my carry-on bag before realizing that it couldn’t be carried on the plane, so I did a quick shuffle of items in my bags, hoping and praying that the champagne bottle would survive in my checked luggage without breaking and drenching all of my clothes and souvenirs.  The guy behind the check-in counter was helpful in that and very friendly (I have yet to meet a Dane I didn’t like), and we made our way through the airport to find our terminal.

When we got into the main center of the airport, I was shocked at how much the Copenhagen Airport looks like a shopping mall.  Stores were everywhere, selling everything from clothes and accessories to electronics, alcohol, cosmetics, and groceries.  Mom and I sat and had something to drink while we waited, trying to work ourselves up to finally going through the airport security line.  It wasn’t too long before we had finally mustered ourselves into it.

We got in a long line for security and on our way, we ran into Raj and Bohovina!  We were all so pleased to have caught each other and exchanged hugs.  We had seen each other on the ship a few times after we had spent the day together in Germany, and they had come to watch me perform at the karaoke finale.  They paid me a compliment about it and said how glad they were to have met us.  We didn’t have long to say our goodbyes, as the line was moving rather rapidly, so we said goodbye rather wistfully and then departed.

I suppose I must’ve left my sunglasses on my head or something, because an alarm went off when I walked through the metal detector.  I was signaled over to get a pat down by a friendly if somewhat intrusive security agent. I hadn’t been to an airport since the new TSA regulations had taken effect, and had been dreading getting the TSA royal rubdown.  It wasn’t quite as bad as I had feared.  I was ushered through without a hitch and we went to our gate.

As soon as we arrived at the gate, we were informed that our gate had changed, and was now on the opposite side of the airport.  So, we walked to the new gate.  When we got there, we were informed that our gate had been changed again and was on the opposite side of the airport.  Tiring of what was turning out to be a goose chase, we sat in the center hub, equidistant from all gates.  Eventually, we wandered over to the proper gate, where our passports were scanned.  I was selected at random for yet another pat down by security, this time in a private back room next to the terminal. The agent was very friendly; I was slightly nervous.  Again, they found no bombs or illegal weaponry and let me pass.

I’ve been trying to learn Danish for some time, so I grabbed a Danish newspaper from the newsstand and read it while listening to my iPod’s Dansk playlist in the crowded terminal.  We were finally called to board and discovered to our happy surprise that we had been upgraded to Economy Extra, and had 2 seats together.

Our last flight on Scandinavian Airlines had been like a little trip to my own personal circle of Hell. Sure, it promised amazing things to come on the other side, but the process of a transatlantic flight can be slightly traumatic.  Picture it: No matter where you sit or happen to be going, there will be at least one horribly smelly person on your flight.  The engines drone on and on without variance, almost making one yearn for turbulence just to break the monotony, the gruesome sense of being in suspended animation.  Eight seats are stacked across three rows. Everyone stares straight ahead, bodies contorted into unnatural positions, legs suspended at the same angle for countless hours, feet ballooning like twin Hindenburgs, positively yearning for the cart of overpriced drinks and mushy food that would make prison inmates riot to come your way, for scorched coffee and another inevitably boring movie starring some insipid Hollywood celebrity, thinking that one more minute of the mental hospital-like environment would prompt you to happily open the emergency door and get sucked into thin, hazy air.

I am, of course, exaggerating terribly.  Long flights aren’t terribly fun, but the destination is what propels you to keep taking such flights.  Before the plane takes off, I spend my time people-watching.  They wind slowly through the center aisle, some looking for their seat, others looking for free space to stow their bags in overhead bins, each carry-on telling a story of a long time away from home.  I wonder about those stories, if any of those people have had a great adventure or are coming home from a great heartbreak.  Airports can be places to cry, places to hide, or places to discover; everyone looks for something to find, and airports can help people find plenty in this world.  I wonder what these lined-up, thoughtful looking people in the aisle have found.

Our seats were excellent on the flight.  I enjoyed being at the window seat and looked out longingly at Copenhagen.  As we took off, we flew over the coast, and I caught my last sight of the Emerald Princess, looking stately as it waited for its newest set of passengers to dazzle, and I missed it thoroughly.  We passed over Oslo as the movies began (everyone had their own personal TV screen and a great selection of movies, music, even video games to choose from, and you could also watch the flight path and the world below, if you so desired), and I silently said my goodbyes to my homeland.  Soon we were over the Shetland Islands of Scotland, enjoying a glass of wine at 35,000 feet.  Not long after that, we were over Greenland, taking pictures of glaciers as they covered mountains, meeting an icy Atlantic at the coast, the thermometer telling us that below, it was -75 degrees outside.

I listened to Billie Holiday’s melancholy “I Must Have That Man” as we passed over Nova Scotia, thoughtful over how quickly the return flight seemed compared to the flight over.  Soon we were over Boston, preparing for our descent.

I hadn’t been to New York in 11 years, and I took pictures from the plane as we descended over the iconic skyline.  We exited what was perhaps the best flight I had ever been on, and wound through customs in New York.  The passport line was incredibly long, and in the line, someone waved over to me and asked if I was the girl who had sung on the ship the night before.  I couldn’t believe I was still getting recognition for that, and we had a nice chat as we waited.

Our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave for several hours, so we sat outside the airport for a while, parked under a Sun that felt foreign on our skin, listening to a type of urban percussion I had not heard for years.  It was a sound that felt comfortable and welcome, like a visit from an old friend, though it was only the sound of honking horns, shouting accents indigenous to Jersey and Brooklyn, and the restless hum of humanity bustling through the streets, busy with Heaven knows what.

We went to the terminal for Continental and were directed to hop a shuttle to the terminal on the other side of the airport, to the United counter.  We went back and forth a couple of times, trying to figure out where our plane was.  Eventually, we found it and made our way through security.  No TSA groping this time.

We split a sandwich and I had a Green Machine smoothie to perk me up a bit before another long flight.  We sat next to a couple in the terminal who were also on the Emerald Princess and from Arizona, and chatted with them for a while, as they had also recognized me from singing the night before.

When we boarded the plane, we were told that the only in-flight entertainment being offered was DirecTV, and we had to pay for it.  So instead of indulging, we napped from New York to Arizona, waking up shortly before we descended over the nighttime desert, the few twinkling clusters of light on the ground that were visible looking like cruise ships on dark waters.  Depressing.

We landed in Arizona and stepped off the plane into a demoralizing and ungodly heat.  One step, and I felt my blood start to evaporate in the 100+ degree temperatures (and it was 10PM).  I was thoroughly sick.  We called the number for the shuttle to pick us up as we grabbed our luggage (the champagne from Mark had happily made it intact) and went to the curb to wait for pickup.  We didn’t have to wait for long in the heat, thankfully, and we were transported to our car.

In spite of the sleep we had had, we were both exceedingly tired as Mom drove down Grand Avenue to get home.  Along the way, we got pulled over by a cop and my mom got a speeding ticket with a hefty fine.  We got to her house and I pulled my car out of her garage, marveling at the now-foreign feeling of driving.  As she pulled in, I noticed that she had two flat tires.  And, as soon as she parked, her car battery died.

Welcome home.

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