Several hours after departing Atlanta en route to São Paulo, I sat upright in my seat and stared into the blackness outside my window. I struggled to find a restful position, but instead found a sharp pain in my neck. Sleep deprivation began to alter my perceptions and send me into a parallel world. My internal reality spilled over onto the scenes outside my window.
The boundary between the ocean and sky blended in perfect darkness, while a scattering of stars sparkled above me. In my waking-dream state, I imagined the stars were distant torches on the shores of another world.
And then I saw a single point of light looking up from the sea. Was it an island? A boat? Once again, my altered perceptions created a story. In my waking-dream, I imagined a single house surrounded by coconut trees, white sand beaches, and coral reefs. A man lived all alone on that little island, hundreds of miles from the nearest neighbor. In that very moment, he tossed in his bed because in his dream he felt me watching from the plane 30,000 feet above.
As I envisioned the man tossing in his sleep, a feeling of sadness washed over me. Suddenly I was the man on the island, totally isolated and alone, while my heart ached for my children.
This altered form of reality persisted as long as the darkness remained, even as we passed the brilliant lights of Caracas, Venezuela, and the blackest jungles of interior Brazil. But in the end, the sun rose over the eastern horizon and dispelled the haze of my sleep-deprivation.
As we landed in São Paulo, Sheli and I looked forward with positive expectations for an easy connection to our next flight. By the way, the photograph at the beginning of this post is a scene of São Paulo as our plane landed.