Nine in the evening the day before Thanksgiving. I am sitting in the airport, watching an adorable baby in his pajamas wobble around before plopping on the ground and giving a gummy smile. He points and tells his dad about the lights outside the glass. There is something in the little one’s wonderment that makes me long to be happy.
Airports at night soothe me. No one is rushed, though it’s one of the busiest times of the year. Crowds thin and a stillness mingles with the whir of the espresso machine in the Starbucks adjacent to my gate. The nonchalant atmosphere makes me want to write a beautiful piece of prose that housewives and graduate students will read in airports a year from now, as they bounce their legs against the stained blue carpet, waiting for their delayed flight from Reno to touchdown.
Flipping through my notebook with white space still in its pages, I glance through school notes from poetry and journalism classes. My assessments of stanzas, questions posed for high school basketball coaches, a few smatterings of dreams I recorded because I thought they meant something. This was all so long ago. How ready I was to conquer the world. I haven’t opened this notebook in years. A photocopied letter slips into my lap. It was for my old college boyfriend. I don’t remember ever writing him a letter.
Four pages, with my thoughts and questions in a cool, distant voice. It’s eerie how similar the sentiments of my mind still are today. I don’t show my feelings easily. I’m riddled with doubts and buried insecurities. I talked of our relationship callously and matter-of-fact, as if I were a psychologist examining the facts and arguments of her patient. I can tell in the lines that it was never going to work, and I should have stopped it right then, instead of letting it limp on for a few months more. I had no concept of what it really looks like to breathe another’s lungs.
The cellphone dings. My dad has sent me a photo of a family video freeze frame. I am seven years old, and my face radiates with an innocent joy that comes from a pure heart full and happy. I study her face and wonder how to bring her back.
This place is an eclectic gathering of memories I didn’t expect to face. The plane is taxiing and will pull up in a few minutes. Smell of coffee hovering. An errant cough, dry and lacking. I close the notebook, darken my phone. In the pockets of my winter jacket, it feels like I can pull all of my old life together in an unassuming manner. I can share my failings with the terminal, my forgotten heartbeats with a hundred other passengers I will never know, and the studious man with the ball cap and wrinkled taupe sweater leaning against the service desk will feed me a smile, turn and tell me it will all be alright.