They’re all well and good and exciting until you’ve got a four hour delay ahead of you. Stuck elbows deep in poorly made frappacinos and rumpled US Weekly’s… I am waiting for the plane to touch down.
I’m on the phone, arguing with the latest entry in a long line of mistakes. My fingers turning cold from nervously running around the rim of a tall iced tea for the better part of an hour; the strangers pressing, forcing forward against the black tape that separates them from their loved ones, holding off for touchdown. From back near the Starbucks they look like an impatient ocean. Swelling in ebbs and flows. Waiting.
Everyone is tired, hungry, bored, and probably writhing in anticipation. We’ve been waiting all day on an international flight. We have agendas with old loved ones and near strangers, and I am peeling the whites from my fingernails.
I hang up the phone.
There’s a previous flight that touches down, full of someones from somewhere. The ocean bursts forward in an explosion. It’s chaos. People are screaming out in languages I don’t recognize. The flight attendants are shoving people back behind the lines, a man with an accent is being dragged towards the door by the police, but in the midst of it it… there’s this girl.
The girl in the red shoes.
She can’t be more than twenty. She’s probably not even eighteen. And her arms are hung tight around a boy, face pressed into his chest. His head is down, nose in her hair, and the bags at their feet, the noise, the crowd…. they’re forgotten. I can see her body heave a sigh that carries out with it all the time she’d been waiting.
Slowly the ocean of travelers calms. The girl in the red mary janes picks up one of the boy’s bags and smiles. The airport is as it was and the people come and go. I am still waiting for VS107.
I can feel the weight of her happiness lingering in the room – that particular joy, that youthful brand of crazy – and suddenly I wonder if anyone saw her but me, and if anybody cared. I stare back at anxious crowd and wonder why it’s so rare to see anyone much older that she is running forward, falling into someone’s arms with tears or excitement or passion. Maybe really, truthfully, I’m not wondering about the state anybody’s in but me. I’d like to believe it’s still inside me. The excitement, the abandonment. To F* all the world when you see what you want. To rush towards it with open arms and let yourself rest in it. Emptied out and safe. I’d like to think it’s still there.
I toss the last of my drink and join the ocean. Forty-five minutes later my toes are giving out for standing high on them to see over the crowd, and I’m wondering if I should just give up and wait outside. I’m too small to see over the swell. The crowd is pressing forward and the airline employees start to rush against the tide. I bite my lip, near resignation, edging towards the door…
Until I get the smallest glimpse of the person I’m waiting for, and my feet can’t carry me fast enough… the world starts sliding past me, as I break into a run.