Airport Time

June 23, 2015 at 12:27 am (Ruminations.) ()

Airport time doesn’t actually count. It’s a time-warp of (sur)reality where all logic, social boundaries, and emotional grip are lost.

I am literally sprawled in the floor of the Las Vegas airport like I would lie in my bed at home, flipping through photos while listing to acoustic guitar. For an hour I’ve been curled in a ball, emotions a knot in my belly, using my backpack as a pillow, catching snippets of passing conversation as people saunter past in couples, singles, and groups. At one point I experience an overlap of audio where at once I hear layers of jazz, Guns ’n Roses, and this side of a conversation about this woman’s grandfather, who is dying. She’s sitting on the floor at my feet eating take-out Chinese followed by chicken noodle soup.

It’s not just me – we are all floating in a travel limbo, a snapshot of breathless reality between two beautiful spaces: the departed and the destination. It’s a free-for-all in airports, really. It’s a given that you will never see these people again, so who really cares if lying in the floor of a public walkway is appropriate or not. Who cares if a lunch (or dinner? breakfast?) of Kung Pao beef and chicken noodle soup is socially acceptable. Anything goes in airport time. There’s an eerie familiarity in these travel spaces that cannot be duplicated. Things are the same – but different – but still that sense of familiarity, longing, and remembrance. It’s like visiting the house of a childhood friend. Memories are palpable and I know my way around, but I just can’t quite put my finger on the reality of it.

Airports give us permission to unapologetically lose our shit, because 90% of the population of airports at any given time is emotionally charged. I experienced one such moment at the tail end of an epically long trip that had taken me across the globe to four different countries. It was one of those adventures that is almost too long. The sense of real life diminished with every passing day, until what was real became so removed from ‘home’ that I started to lose my footing.

At this particular moment, my footing was long gone – a distant memory. And I had just left my love. Matters of the heart, always so complicated.

The tail end of my epic adventure brought me into his presence, but in another city. Over the course of the last year an intimate friendship had unfolded, and I had allowed myself to slip into a hesitant and doomed love. The feeling was mutual, but the timing was oh-so-wrong. Logic was bound to prevail, and we both knew it – but the heart has a way of taking over despite all intent towards pragmatism.

A few hours before I had to leave for the airport I found I had stumbled – more like tripped, flat on my face – into ’the talk.’ It was my fault, a product of me – in typical form – not thinking about what was coming out of my mouth, and kickstarting a confrontation about what was going on between us. What an inopportune time to embark on such an emotionally charged topic.  I couldn’t get around the literal time limit: I had to shower, zip my bags, and ride with him to the airport to catch my flight home. Time ran out, and there was no resolution. We both saw that there wouldn’t be – it was impossible at that moment in time – and he mercifully embraced me and told me that everything was going to be OK, and we would talk more after he returned home the following day.

I knew deep down in my gut we wouldn’t. To the pit of my core I knew it, but I forced myself to believe him simply so I could get through the next half-hour of getting myself ready and to the airport. Cue quintessential airport drop-off, complete with hug and kiss, and promises of a chat soon. Numb, I walked inside and entered the rigamarole of airport check-in and security.

To kill time before boarding I went to one of the sub-par airport restaurants with the same sub-par airport food as every other airport in the world. I had no appetite, but felt it wise to order some food to accompany the whiskey I had chosen to sooth my raw emotions. After the waiter walked away with my order I sat, defeated, staring across the restaurant but seeing nothing, just absorbing little bits of conversation around me. A young woman off for a girls’ weekend. A couple anticipating their impending tropical adventure. A college student explaining to her dad via FaceTime that she was on her way to surprise him – “Surprise!” – but her flight was cancelled and she now needed his help. Every word, every one of them, emotionally charged.

And there I sat, emotions a knot in my belly. I was headed home after three long beautiful weeks of reconnecting with dear friends, adventuring across the world drinking in the beauty of it, and – lastly – attending a gathering of amazing activists working to stabilize this crazy world we live in. Home to the wonderful life I’ve crafted for myself, back to my pup, my friends, the ocean, and my world. But for that moment I was caught in breathless limbo, a poignant moment between two beautiful places: the sweetly and sadly departed, and the much anticipated destination. In this case, Home. My heart simultaneously burst with gratitude and flooded with waves of grief. I was hemorrhaging love.

I laid my forehead on the edge of the table, and I lost my shit. In the way that you can only lose your shit in your bed at home, or – apparently – in an airport. I wept giant drops of sadness. They rained down on my knees and sandaled feet, and before long, strings of snot were dripping out of my nose too. Wounded, I let it all fall out of my face as I gasped for breath to nourish my soul. After the initial waves of emotions, tremors, and face explosion passed I became still. Minutes dragged by. I wondered if there was a napkin on the table. There wasn’t, but it didn’t matter because there was my waiter with my sub-par food and melancholy whiskey, and my head was in his way on the table. I shielded my snot-covered nose and mouth with my hand to make eye contact, and thank him.

He asked if I needed extra napkins.

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