Airport Duty

SeaTac Baggage Claim #10

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.

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Hotel Alexis

packed and readyWoke up Saturday morning ready to give H a ride to the airport so he could wing his way to Mexico– only to find out that Dallas is mostly shut down due to ice.  I always have issues when trying to fly through Texas and this bodes poorly for my leg of the journey next week when I fly out to meet him.  Still, we’ve discovered a few things.  Waiting on hold is no longer necessary– the airline will call you back when your turn in line comes up. This meant a couple more hours of sleep– and also resulted in the second discovery– H gets absolutely no cell service in my apartment.  Cue a cozy Greta and a chilly H, trying to re-book his flights– me shivering out to the car to bring coffee and sit for a while before scurrying back inside to scan over poetry and stress out about what I’ll be reading on Tuesday. (He’ll leave later tonight– fingers crossed that my part of the trip is a little smoother.)

It’s always strange when you find yourself caught in a place after you had planned to leave.  I know it’s happened to me a few times– I’m never sure if I should deal with Real Life things that might not have been tended to, or I should act like I’m already gone, considering I should have been.  I always end up feeling like a ghost-person, not entirely present where I am yet not yet where I’m headed– days of not-quite-anywhere-solid. It’s a frustrating place to be, and I’m glad at least that we found out about the cancelled flight before getting to SeaTac, and that his flight was cancelled before he got to DFW to sit stranded with the thousand other travelers, watching ice glint and searching for outlets and places to sit.

Throughout the day H’s stuff slowly spread around my apartment– it was supposed to be unpacked under a Mexican sun and yet here he was, under the bright cold Seattle sky, digging through for running clothing so we could shiver around Green Lake. I think he was the first to say Hotel Alexis and it seems a good name for my home right now.  Tomorrow I’ll pick up Nicelle and we’ll read together at the Hugo House.  The next day it’s planes for us and out of town, but E. will be coming in from Denver and staying at my place while I’m gone.  I come back, he leaves to cat-sit for another friend, and a few days later B comes back to stay for an indeterminate time.  Then AWP hits town and I have already told my friends that I will help find couch/bed/floor space for everyone. I am throwing my secret lair open and inviting people into my bubble.  I have the spare sheets folded, a stack of clean towels, a stash of extra toothbrushes and enough needle and thread to fix everyone’s torn things.  Welcome to the Hotel Alexis, I hope everyone enjoys their stay!

 

The Doppler Effect

I spill out of my doorway to frost covered lawns and the city shrouded in fog.  My breath billows in front of me and it is impossible to forget December has arrived.  School buses trundle down the street and a young boys wait at the corner as I pass, stamping their feet and jostling their backpacks.  My own bus stop is crowded with leaves but otherwise uninhabited.  I lean against the pole and wait, staring down the street.  As the bus pulls close I think for a moment it will continue past my body and vanish into the city without me, but the lights flash and it pulls to rest as it does each morning.  I climb the steps and settle into a seat as we lurch into the day.

Fog makes light indeterminate.  The ends of things disappear—I hold my coffee and watch the window as the suspended city slips past me, as the doors open and close with a rush of cold air.  I am beginning to know people along this route.  The man in beige overalls works at a produce factory south of Seattle, and we nod at each other each day without knowing names.  I find myself watching for him as the bus pulls to his stop—his coat flares as he walks and he wears a hat that reminds me of a Humphrey Bogart movie.  He seems out of place with this time; a man too large to fit into the modern narrative of web designers and Bluetooth headsets.  I am on the bus when he gets on, I remain when his stop comes and goes.  I must seem a constant fixture and I wonder what narrative he has constructed for my life or if I am simply the Girl on The Bus and exist only in this capacity.

The bus drivers, too, are familiar.  We exchange pleasantries and sometimes continue conversations over a few days. A bit colder today. How were your holidays? Have a good night, thanks. I don’t know their names either, just their faces.  The girl with dark hair and narrow features who drives on Sunday nights.  The man with two kids and a knit hat from Saturday morning.  The older man with glasses, often weekdays and Sunday morning.  If we were to see each other in another place, our memories would tug but we would be past before realizing why.  We exist together only here, between places.  In transition.

This city is a place described best by circumnavigation.  I take the long way to my destination without intention; I head north to go south, I circle back towards my home to leave it.  This system doesn’t make sense.  My map of the city is full of gaps and holes.  I identify an entire neighborhood with one house and a stretch of beach.  I fill others with backyards and porches, wine glasses and coffee cups.  Seattle is strung together with where I have cooked dinners and where I have danced to music that rang in my ears for hours afterwards.

As the sun finally breaks through the massive glass windows at work, I realize I have been in Seattle long enough to accumulate memories of people who have merely paused here before continuing on.  There is the poet who now lives in New York, the potter who moved somewhere near Virginia.  The dear friend who drove his van to Portland and sold it instead of returning.  This is no longer their place, but it remains mine.  The sun lattices shadows on the carpet and I remember this kind of light last year, the kind that unfolds.  How different everything felt then, but here it is once more—early winter.

Anne Carson, in The Glass Essay, writes “Perhaps the hardest thing about losing a lover is/to watch the year repeat its days….. I can feel that other day running underneath this one/like an old videotape.”  I understand this concurrence, and I find myself wanting to quantify; to measure the blue shift of bodies as they move towards my own without accounting for the opposite movement, the way a body becomes redder until it has sped away entirely.  I want to record the present and ignore the undercurrent of the past but that isn’t the sort of person I am.  These days even California is tinged with the pleasant scent of orange groves and the soft blue night skies.  It is easy to forget the desperation I felt there, how I longed to be somewhere cold could set in and burrow beneath doorways instead of a place coated by dust and wind.

It is dusk for only moments before evening steals in beneath the clouds.  The overhead flood lights turn on and around me planes glint.  The few families are buttoning up their coats and getting ready to head home. I would like to end this with a conclusive statement, but I have nothing conclusive to say.  This is my home and it isn’t.  The moon, just past full, will emerge like a coin made of bone.  It will ride above me whether or not I point it to out anyone.  This city will map and remap itself, transparencies made of faces and names and kitchens, until it becomes too large to describe in simple terms.  Already I can feel the layers building, and that will have to be enough.

I want to show you

 

Sun break

I’ve spent many hours in cars and I have to say, very few of them have been spent with people I dislike.  Travel is an amazing thing.  I wish that I had pictures of Big Bear, and the fields of yellow flowers along the roadside.  Or of the view of the lake from an empty dock, the wind as it picks up and cuts between coat buttons.  I can’t take pictures of wind, and I can’t capture the cold as it sneaks against skin, or the way the chill disappears after descending down the mountain.  These are things I only have memories of, and each time I think about it I adjust the story, I revise; the memory becomes less true than even a moment before.  Memory is continual revision.  I have pictures of here though, and here is where I am.

 

Near UW bookstore

more clouds

I just want to show you how beautiful it is.  I want to share it- it is too large for myself alone.