In Kuwait’s airport, I was on my way to Gate 9 to wait for a flight out of the sandbox and into India’s lush vegetation. After a day of relaxed preparations, I’d yet to have a cup of coffee despite the clock showing it was already after 7pm. Boarding for Gate 9 was down a short flight of stairs where buses meet passengers and shuttle them off to their awaiting planes. Midway down the stairs, the stagnant masses came into view and I quickly realized no one was getting anywhere fast. The gates were closed, leaving everyone on the lower level waiting for the time listed on their ticket so the doors would open and security officers could let them through. My ticket said 8:55; Nearly two hours to go until a trip to the basement would payoff. I turned on my heel and hiked back up the stairs and to the only cafe serving all 30 gates of the long terminal’s hallway.
As I walked just past the cafe’s counter, I caught sight of something I never expected to see in this context As I inhaled, a quick gasp as a huge smile emerged on my face.
The cafe was the size of a school cafeteria, able to easily seat a couple hundred people at capacity. Tonight, there were two men reading on the outskirts, and one woman seated alone. Her hair was pulled back in an up-do that clearly took hours; Her makeup was painted into a perfection that easily took just as long. The butterfly tattoo on her right shoulder was exposed, underlined with a white sash below which was a identically colored dress fit for Cinderella herself.
She looked like a princess in every way but one: The ring on her finger.
Seated at a table for two in Kuwait airport’s cafe was a blushing bride. Perhaps the only one in the country who on that Friday night was fully dressed up. Perhaps the only one in the country on who on that Friday night was was publicly baring her shoulders. Undoubtedly the only one who at that moment was sitting in her wedding gown in a cafe’s airport entirely alone.
I stood near the counter and started to pull out my camera. Then I remembered another phrase people have repeated over and over again when talking about travel- always ask. Yet another task to work on. Might as well start at the trip’s beginning!
So in the cafe on top of Gate 9, I approached the girl in white and asked if I could sit down with her. She gave a shy nod and proceeded to tell me through broken English that she and her husband were on their way home to Egypt from Mumbai, where they had just celebrated their honeymoon. Her husband was off roaming the lengthy hallway and she sat patiently waiting, wearing her wedding gown to keep the celebration going as long as possible.
We laughed for a few minutes as we tried to interpret each others questions and answers through games of gestures. I took a few pictures of her, and she wanted more than anything to show off her Cinderella gown and her butterfly tattoo.
We exchanged information and gave each other a hug goodbye before I walked up to the counter to get the nearly forgotten caffeine fix I had been earlier seeking. At the counter, the barista asked a simple word: “Friend?”
I laughed and shook my head no.
“Before friend, no. Now friend, yes.”
So true. Friends now, and both with a butterfly tattoo.