This is my hometown airport. The first time I ever came here to get on an airplane was 1981. Twenty years old, I was going to London for the semester. It would be my first plane ride, my first time to Europe, my first time living away from home for four whole months. I was the same age as Princess Diana, and she had just gotten married. I can remember thinking what different lives we led: I was heading to London to be independent, to learn all kinds of new things, to travel, to have rooms opening in all parts of my life. My life was expanding while hers was shutting down as she tried to wedge herself into the narrow role of princess, her life controlled in so many ways by her husband’s family. I felt sorry for her, the beautiful princess with the sadness in her eyes.
The semester in London was wonderful in every way: I saw over thirty plays in the London theatre district, I traveled to Paris, I hung out in pubs with British neighbors, and I walked all over the historic parts of the city. My building was filled with families from Saudi Arabia, business men who treated me like I was invisible and quiet veiled women who acted invisible. I made friends with the crowds of giggling children who roamed the halls, talking in Arabic. The Saudi women and children, none of whom spoke English, adopted me, inviting me into their flats to dance and talk in gestures and eat delicious spicy food. Inside their own rooms, with their veils off and no men around, the women were lively and fun, warm and friendly. To this day, when I overhear someone say something in that harsh, guttural language, the Arabic words bring back warm memories of my semester in London.