Wednesday, January 15, 2014

scenes from traveling(airports)

The space between movements. Where the waiting happens. Where you end up and where you depart. The anticipation of leaving one spot for another.

Eight hour layover in Paris. Charles De Gaulle airport. Some eyes back home brightened when I relayed this information--Oh go see Paris! Too bad De Gaulle is miles away in a field. The airport is massive, sprawling hangars and wings to get lost wondering around it. Lots of duty free shops and the horrible stench of a hundred perfumes arguing. This is the airport that looks like an airport. This is where I contorted myself many different ways in hopes of the one position that would grant me more than five minutes of sleep. I folded into sharp-armed chairs, draped myself over two when I could find them. When the migraine hit I found a spot away from the foot traffic on the carpet, bag handles twisted around my legs with water by my head and sweatshirt over my eyes.

With so much time one has no choice but wander. I lose my neck pillow somewhere between my gate and the restroom nearby. I get extremely hungry and have to buy a 5 dollar tiny tub of hummus and pretzels in JFK. Back in Paris I sit down to write a quick email and realize the keyboard is different. I hunt and peck for the entire five minutes of free internet. There are places to sit and play Playstation. The carpet is ruby red. The french language enters and exits my head continuously, a sweet melody I can only partially decipher. I check and recheck and recheck that I'm at the correct gate. Or I stand in line to board with a plastic bag open in my hands, legs shaking, holding back the puke building in my throat. Migraines do not give a shit(once on the plane, it takes me a full 15 minutes to convince myself mentally and physically to just let go and be sick--I am so aware of being in public that my gag reflex grew stage fright).

When I feel well enough, I spend my minutes people watching. Airports are fascinating places. I'm surprised by how many people choose to travel long distances in impossible shoes. Maybe they're going directly to an important meeting, the little kid in me assumes. There are children more world-worn than I, spouting multiple languages. One child manuevers a remote control car in and out of standing and sitting legs. The ladies at the bagel kiosk play Al Green and it makes me grin behind the folds of my scarf. In France on my way home, I cry openly in one of the reclining lounges--I cry harder when the man across from me covers his wife with a blanket and kisses her sweetly. I lean against my handle on the tram to my departing gate--the space is tight with people, houndstooth coat so close to me I could stick out my tongue and touch it(I don't).

I listen to married couples argue and teenage daughters sass their mothers. I peek at the book covers in the hands of ten different strangers. I listen to one-sided phone conversations--some playful, some downright bitter. I am soothed by the odd laugh of a french woman to my right as I try to sleep. At some point I fade and when I return she is gone. Empty chairs are everywhere, until they are full again.

I spend fifty dollars(they don't take cash) to sleep in a private lounge overnight in JFK. I get two hours of sleep, tops. I am folded onto a soft leather couch while a dramatic miniseries plays out on the tv to my left. A teen wants to kill himself, his friends race to stop him. I wake up at 3am, wide away with my stomach gnawing at itself. Everything before was thrown up on the plane. I shuffle over to a pile of bananas and peel it bleary-eyed. I have 5 hours until my flight so I take my time getting to the gate. Another row of chairs. A few people are sprawled out on the floor, one person is lightly snoring. A couple sits down and argues over breakfast. The woman wants something, the man doesn't. Somehow this is a dispute. Life feels on pause at the airport, despite calls to my sister and dad to tell them my flight is delayed due to the weather. They stop sending out all flights that morning. Waiting passengers scurry around looking for spare phone chargers--a worker wheels out a cart of free snacks. They are gone immediately and he brings more. The man next to me is talking on the phone about how much he hates our president. I buy a giant donut and enter & exit hundreds of conversations around me. In these places between destinations I do not feel like myself. I do not feel like anyone. A boarding pass, a seat number. Do I look tired? Or mad? What is tired, what is anger? My ears normalize the repetition of announcements. A little boy toddles over to my pile of stuff and playfully knocks over my water bottle, smiling up at me the entire time. His mom seems embarassed but I think it's great. Matter touching matter. An object in motion. In these in-betweens, I can never be still.

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