(Author's Note: I started writing on the plane during turbulence. This is what my brain pushed out under duress.)
The morning I leave for Boston I can hear a rooster crowing while waiting for my cab on the sidewalk. I can hear other creatures used to owning the ungodly hour of 5am stealing backwards in the night, watching and pondering and moving on. When the cab picks me up the depression in the seat from overuse almost swallows me. We drive in darkness, discussing the best route and the week's news. My tension momentarily relaxes with the familiar air-freshener cab smell and the cabbie's easy conversation.
ProTip: Always ask a wandering airport agent which security line is the slowest. Had my boyfriend known this trick, mayhaps he wouldn't have missed his flight on Monday to San Fransisco. Austin Bergstrom is an inordinately easy airport to navigate with arguably the best food. Today the air conditioning seems to be broken and the air has the same wet heat as outside. ProTip 2: Bring a few old favorites but wait to buy your in-flight book until you get to the airport. The euphoria of finding a copy of Game of Thrones in the mobile book store is complete. I walk to my gate humming, "DUN dun da da DUN dun da da DUN dun..."
The 1st flight is slightly rough - I do not appreciate the flight attendant raising her eyebrow to her hairline when the plane's engine makes an ambiguous noise. Far as I'm concerned your job is to look as docile as a cow no matter what's happening so I don't freak the fuck out. Upon landing I spend a few minutes thinking over this sentence spoken over the intercom: "I can't empathize enough how important it is to check which gate your connecting flight departs from."
I'm staring at a wine and tapas bar in the Dallas Airport, trying to decide if it's too early to start drinking. Weather was shitty in Dallas and delays every connecting flight by 2 hours. I'm dreading the long haul to Boston. If I'd flown Jet Blue I could have killed 2 hours watching some pinnacle of human art and invention like "Parental Guidance," but alas - I fly American Airlines. This delay will likely be forgettable compared to what I'm walking into with Boston. I'm kind of a big deal and all but a slightly more precious cargo is arriving at Logan today; President Obama. My original plan was to hop off the plane, rent a car and drive like a cabbie to make an appointment to try on dresses for my cousin's wedding at the JCrew at Copley Place. Plans have obviously changed. Now I'm just hoping I can get out of the city in anything under an hour or two. Boston is resilient but she's also in mourning and I've no idea what that looks like on her. I check the new departure time and a woman gets uncomfortably close to me to discuss the delay, like personal-space-close. I cave and drag my bags to Vino Volo, my new favorite boozamahol wine engorgium. It is 9:34am.
The waitress has smooth chocolate hair and pearly teeth; she's a vision. She doesn't judge the early hour when I ask about wines, suggests a playful flight of whites that pairs well with the mixed green goat cheese salad and prosciutto-Brie sandwich. She works easily and with great humor. If I weren't fully intent on marrying the most goodly man I've ever met I would do terrible, terrible things to her. By the second glass I'm imagining she'd enjoy that.
Turbulence is an integral part of flying. The only reason we can get up here is because of the way that air works. Pockets of pressure, humidity, cross winds, all of this plays into the symphony of flight that the birds don't fret but us humans fear wholly. I'm talking myself in and out of a panic. I am glad for the wine haze. The girl seated next to me has fallen asleep in spectacular fashion, jaw agape with a stubborn string of saliva stretched between her open lips. The plane quakes and so do I. Should have drank more. When I look out the window my brain has trouble processing the grey color of blue that means we've peaked over the clouds. This is typically where the air is calm but I don't trust that. The flight attendant announces the in flight entertainment will be "Anna Karey-Nina" and I wonder at the purpose of trying to watch a movie on a 6 inch screen 7 feet away that was mostly hailed for its wardrobe.
The pilot comes on to let us know the next 6-7 minutes will likely have moderate turbulence from a weather front running parallel to our flight path. Fucking great. I imagine he's used to turbulence to the point of boredom and I try to take comfort in his hypothetical feelings. Writing makes me calmer. It forces me to focus on the thing under control and let go of the lilting that signals nothing and wets my palms. Oh! to be a monk with harness of heart rate and mind! I just adore Brian Williams, in-flight entertainment is such a hodge podge. Dear god, I'm all over the place. When the plane lands I walk into the Boston haze, all warmth and city smell. I have none of the normal nostalgia, possibly because of the tense atmosphere in Boston, maybe because I've been back enough now to be over it. The car rental goes smooth but the highway is a parking lot. A 50 minute drive takes 2 hours. I am obviously unaware that in less than 24 hours these streets will be empty.
When I arrive at my friend S's home in rural Massachusetts the family of 5 is sitting down for dinner. I eat chop suey with S, her husband and their 11, 8 and 1 year old children at a table that will be pushed into the corner to make room for people to walk past after we finish. We do not speak of the woman on the other side of the house that we will visit after dinner. I think S wanted to make sure I ate before we visit.
I believed myself to be prepared for seeing S's mother but her aneurisms were in November and I hadn't seen her since July. Other than not being motorized, her wheelchair was nearly identical to that of Stephen Hawkings. She was tired, making the muscles on her face more slack and her stare more piercing. She looked decades older than her 55 years. I sat next to her as everyone around spoke normally. Her grandchildren laughed and played around us.
"Hi," I said. After a beat "I missed you." Then I was useless and had to excuse myself to sob uncontrollably.
The rest of the night was spent watching Life of Pi while S's daughter asked as many questions as there were lines in the movie. I fell asleep on the couch watching Conan, disappointed that I nodded off and missed the Alt-J segment. I am glad I am here, I am sad and I am tired.