You know those moments when you realize you're living the dream? Except the dream isn't all it was cut out to be? And you realize that what you dream of now is reality; that reality you knew so well before you became an expat. And you wonder if you'll ever make it back to that reality ...
Two nights ago, Smilin' Vic insisted we go out to celebrate my new job in style, whisking me off to the poshest hotel in Doha to enjoy drinks and a meal at "THE" happening spot, where all the local celebrities (???) go to chill.
We pulled out all the stops, dressing to the nines, enjoying a crisp pre-dinner gin and tonic, leaving Kiddo behind. I went the extra mile, donning a never-before worn little number, stilettos, and (gasp!) fake eyelashes. I even indulged in foundation, smokey eyeshadow and hairspray.
We stepped into that swanky restaurant ready to party like it was 1999 (if you don't get the reference, you're too young to be reading my blog). The dinner was just a prelude, premising an exciting evening bound to end in lustful dancing, running down the beach barefoot, and watching the sun rise on the car ride back home.
We basked in the muted bluish fluorescent lighting, lounging on the "sofa-in-lieu-of-dining-chairs". We laid our mobile phones down on the gleaming marble tabletop (just in case Kiddo wanted to text goodnight), right there between the lotus flower floating in a crystal bowl of water and the "paired" wine list.
Endeavoring to ready our palates for the renowned crispy duck salad and delectable sea bass, we ordered their best cheapest bottle of wine (actually two eventually ...) and some very expensive water (you know, the kind that comes in a glass bottle).
We spent the next while indulging in some fine conversation and people watching. We witnessed a heated lovers' quarrel to our right, which ended with her leaving in a huff and him following right behind (it's only interesting when you're not involved). We "tsk' tsk'd" the guy at the table across from us who thought the 'casual-elegant' dress code translated to jeans, a t-shirt, a jean vest and white velvet shoes.
Our people watching fun was barely dimmed by the fact we were seated directly behind the servers' station. The view from our vantage point actually allowed us some insight into how much effort goes into napkin folding in a 5-star establishment.
We chilled to the lull of the French lyrics wafting over the speakers to the tune of an Asian/Bohemian/Alternative pan-fluted melody. It's while chilling that we may have realized how truly surreal the whole evening seemed.
Screeeeetch .... Rewind ....
I do think it's around that point that Smilin' Vic looked at me and wondered out loud at how far we'd come. Not necessarily in a good way, not necessarily in a bad way. Just looking back at how we hooked up, how we fell in love, how we used to chalk up a great night. And how different that all was from that night two nights ago.
How it used to be that we'd just head down to the local pub. How we'd be happy with beer and Caesars (Canadian take on Bloody Mary). How every table had a view of the kitchen door and the bar. How we sat on striped cushioned benches and stools. How the wooden tables were etched with "AK loves JB". How some old fart and young dude would stand on a raised platform in the corner playing old Celtic tunes. How everyone else in the bar would chime in while Smilin' Vic and I remained mostly oblivious. How we'd get silly drunk and head back to the tiny house on the lake and watch the sun rise over the water.
What's wrong with me?
What's wrong with us? We have everything we'd ever f&*%in' asked for, everything we'd ever dreamed of. We can go dine in a five-star restaurant whenever the fancy takes us. We can hop on a plane and visit exotic lands four or five times a year, more if we really wanted. We could buy designer clothing if we chose to and drive fancy cars if that was our thing. Kiddo's education is taken care of, and we don't ever have to worry about not having a roof over our heads.
So why do we still miss the thrill of saving for two weeks for that $120 to spend on one night out at the pub? Why do we still yearn for waking up for quick fry steak and canned split pea soup at midnight? Why do we still remember so fondly those frigid nights in Nova Scotia when the power would go out, the water pump would stop working, and we'd have to boil water for coffee on the wood stove and take snow baths?
Our night out two nights ago cost us over 1,000 QAR (roughly $300). That didn't include dancing. Or running down the beach barefoot. Or watching the sunrise. It cost us that much for what I must admit was some pretty amazing tasting crispy duck salad and Chilean sea bass. But I ended up with a rumbling, grumbling tummy, and we were back home by midnight.
So we basically paid $300 for me to get the runs. Unfortunately, a new dress, false eyelashes and stilettos get you nowhere when you've got the runs. If anything, they're a hindrance and end up making you look even more pathetic.
The sad reality is, eventually the glitz doesn't shine. What once seemed exotic now seems contrived. But what's real never fades. Those etchings on wooden tables. Those sad Irish pub ballads. That sun rising over the lake. They never fade.
Sadly, that night two nights ago left me with nothing but a tummy-ache and a yearning. I know Smilin' Vic wanted it to be something grand, something great. But we both know we don't need grand to be great. We just need each other. And eventually, we need to get back home. To what we've really earned. To what's real.
What's wrong with me? The ME. But it's not the ME, it's me. I just don't know if we can make it work...
P.S. I didn't feel like cooking tonight, and I still had a slight taste of vinegar in my mouth from two nights ago, so I went and got takeaway ... from a tiny Thai joint in Doha.
Brought it back home, and we enjoyed it with bottled beer and boxed wine ... for a little over 100 QAR (roughly $30). Afterwards, I sat down in jeans, a t-shirt and a little lip gloss (even on my worst day), and started to blog.
It struck me how a meal from a hole-in-the-wall that blatantly advertises it is selling you crap could bring more satisfaction than one of the poshest establishments the city has to offer.