I confess, I love being on airport duty. I’ll happily drop you off or pick you up. I’ll park and wait at the luggage claim, I’ll drop you off at a crazy hour in the morning—I will be there for you.
I used to say that I’ll do it because I’ve been there too—the girl without a car, trying to get from Riverside to LA, willing to take an 8 hour bus ride but grateful for the passenger seat of a friend’s car. This is still true, but it also boils down to selfishness. I like taking people on the first leg of an adventure, I like welcoming my loved ones home. I like the anticipation, the slight fear that I won’t recognize someone as they come out of the gate, and the relief when I see the shape of a shoulder and know immediately—there. That is who I’m waiting for.
Airports are a great equalizer. The travelers are sleep dazed and weary, the friends are eager and bright. I’ve been the exhausted traveler, I’ve been the friend at home, sobbing in my car after a tight hug goodbye and an uncertain time apart. I’ve been the eager person, embarking on something unknown. I’ve been the sorrowful traveler, leaving loved ones. I’ve worn sneakers that slip off easily and an oversized sweatshirt that still smells of a lover and I’ve worn heels that click satisfyingly against the linoleum and turn heads as I pass gate after gate, just because I could. My flights have been nondescript, turbulent, creepy. I’ve had seatmates that are chatty and ones that ignore me.
I can remember the flight home when my father died, but I can’t remember if my sister or my best friend picked me up. I remember crying on the plane, quietly. I remember flying home thinking I should feel different somehow. I remember landing in Mexico still surprised to see my friend walk up to find me, even though he said he’d be there. I remember the first time T came being sure we would never know each other, and I remember how we rushed each other, arms open, the same people we’ve always been. I remember waiting to go through security in Texas, feeling the certainty of leaving.
Today Mt Rainier loomed above the horizon and, before I realized it, I was in the lot, I was waiting at the empty baggage claim. Slowly, people joined me and before long I saw K and her boyfriend on the escalator. A hand waves. A hug, some laughter. Bags found, elevator, car, highway. The city stretches before us and we are all home again, on solid ground before our next adventures. Do you need a ride? I’ll be waiting.