Riding Off Into the Sunrise

Scottish Sunrise

Flying, for me, is just a couple of electrodes and a wet sponge away from capital punishment. At 315 pounds, I’m not a good passenger. You wouldn’t be either, if you had to wedge your fat ass into a seat made for one of those heroin-chic Calvin Klein models from the ’90s. And can someone please tell me what the hell is the problem with giving a guy a break and adding a few extra inches of seat belt? I can’t imagine the world’s economy would collapse over four inches of woven polyamide in dystopian gray.

My biggest issue at 37,000 feet, though, is sleeping. Right after dinner service, The One burrows under a blanket, closes his eyes, and goes slack in his seat, his tongue every so often smacking the roof of his mouth as if he were trying to ferret out the notes of a fine Rioja. I, on the other hand, sit ramrod straight, willing myself to stay awake, because whenever I drift off during flight I stop breathing for so long that I awake bug-eyed and panicked, finally letting loose a sleep apnea-induced snorgg (combination snore and gag) so loud and tortured, it has, on occasion, been known to propel flight attendants out of their cubbyholes.

But the one—literal—bright spot on the flight is when I get to gaze at the sunrise. Suspended seven miles above the earth, I lose my bearings. Without reference points to gauge speed and distance, I imagine myself floating, bobbing over a sleeping world, like in those flying dreams I had as a child. I’m unmoored from myself. The stress of juggling too much at work, trying to be a good husband, worrying about my health drains. I can almost hear the ticker-y static of my daily life fade as I watch the sky lighten. At the same time, the approaching anxieties of being in a foreign country—where I’m guaranteed to miss all the subtle social cues that make one a good and polite traveler—are still asleep, and I know from experience that I have several hours before they begin tag-team wrestling in my gut.

Caught between above and below, past and future, my internal compass shrugs and lets go. I lean my forehead against the smudged plastic window and watch as the sky first begins to brighten, then turns an almost imperceptibly pale blue, a blue so faint that the only way to register the color is to close my eyes for several seconds and then pop them open. I make a mental note to tell The One that this is the color the master bathroom should be.

As gentle blue surrenders to more aggressive oranges and reds, shivery waves of wonder wash through me. I watch the sun insist its way over the horizon, and I ponder creation, evolution, the Big Bang. I question, sometimes out loud, who or what made this. My faith, which these days staggers like a man too much in love with his Scotch, steadies itself. I feel hope—something I used to feel in abundance in my 20s but that, over the years, has been edged out by the sprawl of cynicism. Hovering over the Atlantic, I murmur what some people would call a prayer, but is really a ragbag of fragmented Catholic verses burned into the folds of my brain, New Age platitudes leftover from my Shirley MacLaine days, and strange-sounding, hum-like words I once heard at a Buddhist gathering:

I hope The One and I will stay together. With our old issues of control and distance—which we thought after 20 years were finally over—circling back for yet another round, we find ourselves again filled with doubt and fighting with our gloves off.

I hope Mama and Papa Leite will live forever. No amount of therapy will ever get me through their passings intact.

I hope the freaking returning flight has bigger seats or else I’m complaining to United.

I hope we have a good vacation in Scotland.

I hope.

David Leite's signature


  1. Lovely musings from a wonderful man. As for Scotland, I gained 8 lbs there. Bad news for the return flight. And certainly try the haggis! Some chefs have a flair for it.

    1. Bette, thank you muchly. I actually returned the same weight as when I left–and I ate a lot. I didn’t try haggis, but The One did. He’s glad of it, but it’s not a repeat dish for him!

  2. David, Love this post and it reminds me why I come back to your blog time and again. I know I can come here and NOT see a blogger wearing skinny (oh, I have thigh gap I hadn’t notice) jeans, posing pigeon toed and knocked kneed, eyes bashfully down cast. One that is proclaiming they’re Christian (non-information: 95% of the US falls in that category), that they home school their kids, and their life is pastel pink perfect. The fact you refer to your furry one as devil cat shows me home schooling was never in the picture. Also, writing of faith to include the Catholic church, Shirley, and the Buddhist religion–thanks for admitting! Oh, and your stories and recipes are pretty terrific. You’re a darling man. Thanks for being you.

    ps There’s a gal in Seattle that blogs under the name kim chee and meatballs. Another refreshing blog featuring kim chee recipes (among others) and a cautionary tale on condo ownership.

    1. Ann, thanks for getting me! My life is FAR from pastel pink. (I don’t even look pretty in pink.) My thighs are too fat to allow me to be knocked kneed. I’ve got too much of an ego to be downcastedly bashful. And, no, home schooling was never an option. There wouldn’t have been enough duct tape in the garage for my mother to muzzle me long enough for me to learn.

      I really don’t want anyone to think my life is perfect. No one can grow or learn from perfect. I don’t want a Simonized existence. I’m an overweight, bipolar gay man with severe control issues and edema in my right ankle. I yam what I yam. We all should be.

  3. David, I enjoyed all your Scotland pictures on twitter, and am glad to read you (plural) had such a good trip. Welcome home.

    Flying used to be such a thrill for me…travel in general, in fact. Now, I want to be IN other places, I don’t relish getting TO other places. So much physical and mental discomfort, for so many hours…it’s tough. And expensive. Something so expensive should be comfortable and pleasant, no?

    Congrats on the work you’ve done on your health. Glad you–and your doc–are seeing so much progress. Onward! 🙂

    1. My dear Quinn, thank you. Yes, we indeed had an incredible, incredible time. The big Scotland post is coming. (Why is it I’m allaying saying that?!)

      And thanks for your well wishes. I can finally visit my doctor without that knot in my stomach anticipating the years-old lecture about losing weight.

  4. David, I too saw the sun set on my way home from seeing Mom and Dad. They are great by the way and love when you are home. It was spectacular, unfortunately my One was not close enough to me to touch and enjoy together.

    You say you thought a discussion of twenty years ago was over. Sweetheart, relationships have peaks and valleys just like a roller coaster. Just when you think things are climbing your way, they drop but do get better again. Our daily lives can’t help but fall into the past in what we have done or said. But Love has a firm hold on those who can look beyond the past and not repeat it. You two will get through this fall as one and continue on together. Rollercoasts have their ups and downs, but Love is constant.

    1. Pat, so glad you visited my parents. They do so enjoy spending time with you.

      Yeah, the old roller coaster, huh? It’s amazing how utterly complicated, delightful, exhausting, baffling, and rewarding relationships can be. A friend reminded of the film “The Best Years of Our Lives,” in which Myrna Loy says to her husband, “How many times have we had to fall in love all over again?” I kind of feel that. Love, to me, is cyclical. It keeps coming round and round again, if you let it.

  5. David, you are so very good at expressing yourself, in your writing. I know you are an excellent cook, but you are an even better writer. I laughed until I cried reading the first two paragraphs. Thank you. Best laugh I’ve had in weeks.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Upload a picture of your dish