Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ass sweat for the weary. (originally posted December 27, 2006)

Last night, I sat on a plane for 3.5 hours. It was a small plane, just three seats across, so ultimately, you could say it was designed to be one of the most horrendous transportation vessels created. To top it off, the small air valve above my seat wasn't working. As a result, I learned first hand how hot airplanes can be.

About an hour in, I realized my ass was sweating. Now, everyone has experienced this if you've ever been in temperatures above 80 degrees. It's a state of anxiety almost, as you don't know if you will have wet stains on the back of your clothes once you stand up, and because of this you panic and in the end sweat more. It might be the bitchiest of the bitchiest catch 22 situations.

So for 3.5 hours, I endured a sweaty ass. I couldn't get comfortable because of the heat, so somewhere above Iowa, I gave up the idea of napping and assessed my situation. I was hot. Everyone is asleep around me. I'm in a capsule to hell. Check. Considering that I was essentially alone, I stared out the window and found myself eventually thinking about my current situation, not just what was presently happening.

I share a love/hate relationship with airplanes. I'm not afraid of flying, but I sort of dread boarding planes. Nothing good has ever come of walking through an airport departure terminal, and I consistently find myself with a knot in my throat every time the security checkpoint checks my ticket and allows me through to the gates. For me, I'm always leaving something behind. More importantly, I'm leaving someone behind.

My hatred of general aviation began the winter of 2005, which subsequently was the worst year of my life thus far. That January, I had traipsed unwillingly through the departure terminal at Edinburgh International Airport for what I didn't know was the last time (at least for the next two years). Unfortunately, there were things I couldn't store in the overhead compartment or check in at the ticketing counter, and as a result, the most important thing in my life at the time was left behind, standing in the general common area of the airport, waving goodbye and eventually walking away. Part of me knew that things were finished, but the definitive end was still three days away. Leaving your heart overseas is difficult. Passport control makes it very difficult to retrieve.

Because of this experience, I'm constantly reminded of a broken heart every time I'm in an airport. Instinctually, I look around the terminals when I find myself in such a place, scanning for that one familiar face I lost two years ago, always keeping my eyes open for that chance meeting. Every passenger passes through my vision, but to no avail. The person I'm looking for is never there.

Sitting on the plane from Oklahoma City to Newark, I realized that I'm in a constant state of flux. My plane rides are a transitory period where I have no boundaries, no limits, no home. I'm neither here nor there, and all it takes is one airline ticket to change this status. Because of this state of nothingness, one can take on roles. No one knows you; no one knows where you're from or where your ultimate destination is. Trying out new accents, various stories about where I'm going and why, etc. are some of my all time favorite activities. I don't completely lie to these strangers. I just, how do you say, make myself more interesting? Basically, who wants to hear about an average girl from the Midwest who has done nothing really to speak of when they can hear about a young Australian who grew up in six different countries with seven brothers and sisters and is now traveling to London to take up her course at the London School of Art? I'm proud of my ability to make up these stories, and as far as I can tell, people believe them. Maybe they just want to believe them, because same as me; their lives leave something to be desired in the adventure department.

Last night, however, I had no one to talk to. No stories to tell, no fake accents to perfect. For 3.5 hours, I lamented on the people I've left behind in all those departure terminals, fighting the loneliness I feel somewhere above empty spaces I can't identify from being so high up.

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