A Dream Instead of Sleep

The empty city verified this unnatural hour – three in the morning. Even more unnatural, we spent none of the previous hours sleeping or packing, just waiting to go to the airport. Me, waiting to go there and back. Therefore, my friend slipped into a drowsy daze as I slipped in after her to the taxi, and I fell to ruminating whether or not check-in would even be open three-and-a-half hours before the flight.

In an attempt to throw off these surly thoughts prompted by the late hour, I asked the only question I would need to for the rest of the drive:

“So how did you come to be driving a taxicab at three in the morning?”

As immediate as the flip of a switch, our previously pensive driver inundated us with his thoughts. Normally a good quality for dozing, his animated habit of waving his hands and looking me in the eyes through the mirror, instead of at the road, had the opposite effect: suddenly I had the urge to act as a lookout. Soon, though, my weariness wore out for a different reason – the story he was telling.

With each uttering of a renowned writers’ name, his heavy accent became slightly more cryptic with excitement. Eventually it became clear that that accent hid a great penchant for writing – often poetry.

“Whitman cannot compare to Shakespeare, and Rumi, Hafez…” after a good chunk of time extolling these poets, it came as a surprise to hear his more permanent employment is not literary, but concerned with IT and computers. In fact, after getting caught at Schiphol Airport, he went to the highly lauded Delft Technical University.

So the accent hid much more than a poetical mind…wait, “Excuse me, what do you mean by ‘caught’ at the airport?”

“Oh, I had a fake Visa,” he explained practically, “and was trying to get to Canada.” Then he told me about his birthplace, Afghanistan. How his published work on the horrors of the Kuwait war – something about dead women’s bodies in piles – got him thrown in prison for three days. Even the remembrance of this awful time did not dull his enthusiasm for writing. He ended up jumping from one place to another, trying to reach Canada, which seemed to embody something grand in his eyes. As great as The Hague is, there is something majestic in the wide-open nature in Canada which would inspire his poetry more than a smoky city. But now he has accepted Canada as a hazy dream.

For the length of that car ride, I forgot that my parent’s house lies less than an hour away from the Canadian border. Swaddled in the empty night hours, this car belonged to our Afghani driver’s story, and the world took its shape from his eyes. Instead of sleep that night, I discovered his dream. And instead of the horrors of the Kuwait War or prison or a lost country, he told me about the beautiful craftsmanship of words.



Note: This is part of my motivation letter which got me into university.

The handshake sent a jolt straight through my brain to my core.

Listening to a Tuskegee airman is one thing, but to feel his sturdy, wrinkled hand in such a common greeting was like touching history. As if I were able to, by extension, be gripping controls of a WWII airplane fighting against bullets and the prejudice of a nation.

My nation.

It could have been just a handshake, just a funny name (Tuskegee – who came up with that?), or just nothing at all if I were not looking for a newspaper story. But Mrs. Martin had told us to be bold journalists, and Mrs. Washington had lectured on the first African-American pilots; so when “Tuskegee airman” popped up in an announcement for a lecture, I popped out for lunch.

Now here I was one random morning, not only touching history but savoring it in my hands like a warm cup of pumpkin spice latte in October.

The lieutnant smiled and departed, but my mind still resonated with images and implications that Mrs. Washington had pressed into my hand like a key which opens the caves behind external observation.

Then I observed that lunch ended in ten minutes, so I gathered my precious interview notes to hurry back to school. This time sleepiness did not shadow my mood; rather, I hummed with the prospect of teachers handing out more keys.