Why can't I go to Belgium, you ask?
Because i'm too embarrassed. It's not like they have WANTED posters of me at age 17 plastered on their post office walls, my heavily-eyebrowed face surprised and mortified.
But I was firmly escorted out of the Brussels airport.
I had my first plane ride when I was 16 on a 3-seater Cessna owned by my mom's boss. There were 4 of us in the little dangerbox, and I whooped and laughed at the turbulence and even got to hold the joystick for about 20 seconds. They do call it a 'joystick' when you're controlling a tiny plane and holding the lives of 3 other people in your hands, right?
My next plane ride was to France, a slightly larger plane with better drink service and less turbulence. After that trip, I decided to go to Italy with a high school exchange program. Since we were trading students with an exclusively French school in Milan, I was excited to be able to visit a new country while speaking my high-school-fluent French. The fools carried about 20 alcohol-hungry, hormonally-raging teenagers over to Milan for a whirlwind trip around Italy and a week with host families.
I was never popular here in America, although I did eventually find my niche with the drama freaks. But in Italy, I was really, really popular. Not because I was pretty or witty or wise, but because as the most fluent American, I was the portal for hook-ups between the 15 French/Italian guys and les filles Americaines tres chouettes, which roughly translates to smokin' hot American sluts.
I will admit that the shyest and cutest of the French boys did eventually make a move on me, but I didn't really want to make out in the urine-stink-filled-mini-bathroom of the Ghighlione family basement before prying his hands out of my pockets and hopping on a plane the next day. Je suis vraiment desolee, Gael.
Anyway, it was our last night in Milan, and our hosts were determined to get as much American love as they could, and therefore they threw a secret, no-teacher-no-chaperone party with 897 gallons of melon vodka. There were flaming shooters and little hip flasks of gin and just generally buckets and buckets of booze. And I got extra heaping drunk and had a hell of a time trying to translate from horny masculine French to polite-like-omigod-English. It was a fabulous party, and I felt popular and well-liked and practically floated on a cloud of the aforementioned melon vodka.
The next morning, my host mother gently prodded my shoulder for 2 hours until I finally woke up with my first hangover, 5 minutes before our plan took off. She said hasty goodbyes and handed me a packed lunch of the decidedly non-American, non-hungover kind: hard, dry rolls; unsweetened chocolate; and the worst orange juice known to man. I gulped it all down in the airport, starving. And then I got on a tiny little puddle-jumper of a plane from Milan to Brussels.
I spent almost the entire flight in tiny bathroom, face pressed against the air conditioning, trying not to spontaneously vomit and explode as various Europeans cursed me in different languages because I wouldn't get out of the only WC. When we got to Belgium, I was ready to DIE.
Our tour group got lost because no one could read Belgian; at least, that's what I vaguely remember, because I was trying so hard not to DIE. I asked to go to the bathroom and was denied. Police were apparently trying to hold up some of our Asians, and to this day I wonder whether they wanted to throw them in jail or add them to the Belgian population.
In the ensuing chaos, I snuck into a large, high-ceilinged room of the airport, almost a cathedral. The walls, floor, and columns were shiny, cool marble. It was beautiful. I put my forehead against a column and drank in the coolness.
And then I barfed the largest, nastiest barf that any human being has ever barfed in the history of the world.
I tell you, it was goddamn beautiful. I have never heard a sound to rival that SPLAT. It was my chef d'ouevre, the masterpiece of my life. Well, besides my kids. But it was beautiful. I looked at that puke and I saw colors that I had never seen before.
And then some nice men in uniforms picked me up by the arms and dragged me off to my plane, saying all sorts of incomprehensible things to me in very stern voices.
And I slept the whole way home, somehow managing to eat two meals without waking up. I've loved tiramisu ever since.
And that is why I can never go to Belgium.