Sunday morning was spent wandering around town saying goodbye. Knowing that I would never experience PTown again as a first-timer falling in love with the energy that is Women’s Week, but hoping that I would make it back and enjoy it as much, even if in a different way.
I had planned to leave PTown by bus on Sunday morning to make the 4-hour journey back to Logan Airport for my 9 p.m. flight back to Dublin, but during the week I’d received the offer of a lift from a lovely woman who was dropping her friend off there for a Sunday night flight. On Saturday night, I didn’t really want to leave early Sunday morning and the thought of the long ride to Boston in traffic was not appealing. Lauren and Tina and her parents encouraged me to book a flight on the tiny puddle jumper on which they were flying the next afternoon at 3 p.m. What could be easier, they said. A fifteen minute scenic hop across the ocean, straight to Logan Airport. Repeated mentions of my terror of flying sounded hollow, after all the little challenges I had set myself for the week and mostly all accomplished. So I booked the flight early in the morning and resigned myself to another new experience.
My nerves were starting up again through the packing, the taxi ride with the others, seeing the tiny 10-seater plane for the first time, the security checks, and being separated from all my baggage as the plane was too small for us to take on carry-on luggage. As we walked the tarmac to the smallest plane I had ever been near, I was told I had to sit in the co-pilot seat. They seemed to be balancing the plane out in terms of weight. This, to a person who can’t even comfortably put her feet on the floor in a full-size commercial jet in case she ‘un-balances’ the plane, was just one step too far. My new-found courage melted and I’m not too ashamed to say I begged. Tina’s mum stepped up, all excited to co-pilot the plane. I crawled sheepishly into the seat behind her. Lauren sat at the back of the plane and Tina sat behind the pilot. I didn’t remember until the middle of the flight that Tina was afraid of flying too, and Lauren, the calm one who enjoyed flying, was way back at the end (or as way back as you can get in a 10-seater).
As we readied for takeoff, the pilot appeared to be reading the manual on how to fly the thing. Or that’s what it looked like to me, he seemed unsure and a little fidgety, and it seemed to take a lot of revving to get the plane to taxi down the runway and lift off the ground. I took comfort from the calmness of the other passengers. I’ve always been relatively fine during landings as I could see the ground and the flights were over, so this time, as we could see the ground(sea) the whole flight, and we could see the skyline of Boston for most of the 15-minute flight, I was actually fine. Apart from the one time an orange light flashed on the dashboard and an alarm sounded briefly seeming to startle the pilot. There is something to that saying, ‘feel your fear and do it anyway’, though there is a time and a place and I would not have been able for this flight a week earlier.
Lauren and Tina and her parents hung out at the airport and we ate pizza and chatted. I was sorry to part ways with them, but we had to too soon as their flight was leaving a lot earlier than mine. I wandered to the right terminal and settled in to wait for my flight to Dublin, sad to leave, but anxious to get home. The time passed quicker as I ended up chatting at the gate to I. Beecham who was on the same flight to Dublin on her way back to the UK. I think I might actually have slept on the flight home, exhaustion and my experiences in PTown making me a slightly different person compared to the terrified one who flew out just the week before.
After it all, Home is where I get to cuddle Clio.
As far as the reason I went to PTown in the first place – as an author and to network – I found it difficult to relax and just enjoy all the readings while I was also a part of the events and while I was fulfilling my promise to take part in every possible minute of PTown Women’s Week. I couldn’t slip comfortably back into the role of a reader as there was so much going on in me and around me. Therefore, I probably did not absorb or learn as much about the lesbian fiction scene as I should have. Despite being an author and reading on the panels, I was still in awe of the established authors and didn’t take the chance to talk properly with them and ask them the questions I wanted to. I spent more time with the performers, observing them and asking myself questions about their capacity to bare their souls on stage, their support for each other, their obligation to be known, yet remain private.
For many reasons, the experience changed me and was well worth the trip. I discovered that fear has kept me from being the person I can be, from reaching out and from experiencing a lot more that life has to offer. It was wonderful to rediscover the me that people enjoyed meeting.
I know that PTown is a bubble and that the ‘real’ world outside can be a bit of a shock back to reality. Being able to walk down a street where being gay or lesbian was the norm, feeling equal, normal, a part instead of apart, is an experience that I wish I could have every day, until it becomes my ‘normal’, inside me as well as outside. I don’t know how long that will take, but until it happens where I live, I hope to get away and feel it again in Provincetown in 2014, and 2015, and so on. I may not be able to experience that ‘normality’ again, but I can take the feeling with me and I have the memories.
Most importantly, I will have the new friends I made there. A gang of us are already planning our next trip somewhere, and I can’t wait.