I got stuck in the airport in Atlanta on my way in for Christmas Eve. A solid 14 hours of repeated flight delays, then cancellation, being told no flights are available, only to overhear two people behind me in line getting tickets, then stand-by’s which also ended in cancellations. When I got to Milwaukee, barely tangent on the cusp of Christmas Morning, my suitcase was completely soaked, a lot of the presents ruined, and my brain felt like the innards of a over-ripe pumpkin.
Airports sometimes symbolizes freedom, since you’re most likely going somewhere. But the polar opposite can be true too, especially when you have nowhere to go because the warm and cold fronts are having a marital dispute outside the oversized windows and consequently, your plane is stuck in some god-knows-where cornfield. It struck me how vulnerable we are to isolation when we depend on machinery to get to places, and how confined we are by our bodies. Having a car, a home, a place to be and a place to go, sometimes makes me forget that I am at the mercy of physics — that sometimes, I cannot go as I please.
As I groped through the fatigue fog –per internal human resource report, getting up at 3am after 4 hours of sleep is no longer agreeable with my body — and took in the throne of thwarted Christmas Eve travelers, I thought of the people who are homeless. I had a place to go, and people to take me in, but somehow spending 14 hours — almost the amount of time it would have taken me to drive from Durham to Milwaukee — in an airport imparts this sour taste of loneliness, of being invisible in a crowd. That visceral sense of being in an eternal moment suspended in time, going nowhere, and being nobody.
I don’t know if this is why we keep busy, so we don’t realize that we are lonely.
And the first real bout of snow stranded me in Milwaukee until today, when I was due to leave on Monday. Dear Midwest, I’m returning all of your snow; refund please. After the initial internal screaming, I decided to visit friends who were in the area; the whole kerfuffle ended up a blessing in disguise, really. And now I am back in a very rainy town, with a very leaky roof. I am glad and I am reluctant to be back.
And what really makes a home?
Somewhere in the world the water-child is stomping about, terrorizing all of the thrift stores for their hidden gems. The absence tastes like a frozen moment, a truth I daren’t touch but warily paces about its periphery, drawing its circumference with memories, and hope.