The Unhappy Familiar

It is becoming too familiar for her—the slow space of airports, people watching, the shuffle onto the big metal flying contraption, tucked in with other travelers like cattle. She moves in a hazy gait, hearing the screaming child, the loud woman complaining into her phone, pulling a family apart. The cacophony does not process.

Every time she leaves Milwaukee the plane takes a piece of her soul. She moves away from roads woven into her veins, from familiar stomping grounds with her family’s memory stamped into the damp earth and squeaky floorboards. Even the lights from towns south of the city glow as her own, as she claims the land and all its inhabitants.

How could she be herself in two different places? How could she give to the people she so desperately wants to reach when she is continuously being cut in half? Routine of the unhappy familiar—her journey holds on autopilot.

The chair is warm from a previous passenger. She shifts beneath the seatbelt and pores over the silhouettes outside the window. The men who wave the plane into motion.

Lights are blinking along the tarmac, odd flashes of gold and green and red that seem to want to connect but miss one another. The faintest tint of color in the air. She is not ready to be taken away again, to be so practiced at saying goodbye.

Night Lights

Night Plane

The woman next to her looks at a fashion magazine. She wants to be beautiful. And she is, because she is aged and has seen so much of this life.

Chatter from the seats behind her. Young girls going back to school. It seems the whole world is at peace with how it spins except her.

Buildings fade into the night, shrinking as they climb the sky. She holds her breath, trying to keep the remnants of home secure in her lungs. She doesn’t want to breathe in the loneliness. Does not want to come up for air in a foreign city.

Light strands arrange in patterns that she assembles from above. They don’t blink, these constellations on the ground. She traces her name between the glow. So tired of saying goodbye as if it didn’t rip her apart each time she expelled the word from her mouth. As if the world would stop to fix her brokenness.

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