Dani Shapiro
October 1, 2008

Fork in the Road

The other day, while messing around on Facebook (one of my new and most favorite forms of procrastination) I went on my husband’s Facebook page to see what was new with him, since we barely ever get to talk to each other any more because of 4th grade homework and the new puppy. I noticed that Michael had added a link to a video he had also posted on YouTube, called “Flying Qat into Mogadishu”. Qat being a plant found in parts of Africa which, when the leaves are chewed, apparently gives a person a mild, cocaine-like buzz. And Mogadishu, Somalia being the place that owned Michael’s heart before he met me. He was flying with his friend Josh on the small drug plane onto a dirt runway south of Mogadishu controlled by the son of an infamous war lord (is there any other kind of war lord?) because there weren’t very many ways for journalists to get into the country during that time. As I watched the video below–the laughing pilot, the tiny strip of dirt appearing below them, the men casually holding their assault rifles approaching the small plane–I noticed the date. It was August, 1996.

Michael and I met on the first day of November, 1996–less than three months after the adventure on the qat plane. He was still jet-lagged, having just returned to New York from Africa, where he spent most of his time as a foreign correspondent. We were introduced by a mutual friend at a Halloween party near Gramercy Park, we fell in love on the spot, and now we live with one child and two dogs in bucolic New England. This is what our lives look like now:

I’ll never be able to explain it. But that improbable meeting nearly twelve years ago has been the greatest piece of good luck in my life. Still, as I watched the video Michael shot as the plane descended through the clouds toward the dirt strip, my breath caught in my throat. Please land safely, I thought. Come home so we can start our lives together. Please.