Backpack on, arms folded. Hips rocking back and forth to Superstar by Beach House on repeat. I stand at the back of the crowd now forming at Gate 111, Terminal C waiting to board my flight back to Denver. Group 4.
An older woman decked out in hiking attire and gear approaches. “Have they started boarding yet?”
I take an AirPod out. “They’re just about to start.”
Just then, my watch vibrates: the flight has been delayed 20 minutes. I look up and see the new 5:20 departure time.
“Just kidding,” I say, nodding to the updated screen.
People rustle and moan. The plane has arrived and already been cleaned. The flight crew, however, is stranded on the tarmac arriving in from another flight, awaiting a gate.
My watch vibrates again: delayed another 25 minutes. At this, I find one empty seat and take it. An immediate fatigue sets in, one that feels so heavy it surprises me – have I been carrying this? I had not noticed.
Across the way, a man my age cannot sit still. He jostles back and forth between sitting and standing, stretching his legs and shaking out his arms, taking off his baseball cap and fixing his hair. He has approached the woman at the concierge twice already with questions.
Nearby, an elderly couple chirps at each other. The woman, agitated, has a nervous tic – a blink and a nod – that her husband seemingly ignores, along with whatever she is saying. He stares straight ahead.
Suddenly, a young woman with her baby enters my field of vision. She is bent over, holding her daughter’s tiny hands above her bald head as her tiny feet – her barefoot soft bottoms – pitter patter and drag across the uncarpeted terminal floor. She is learning to walk where thousands, millions perhaps, have imprinted their dirty histories on the terrazzo flooring that is airport architecture.
This incoherence of frenetic energy has a draining effect on me, and I suspect that it always has. It is the proximity to it, bearing witness without being directly engaged, that wears me a certain way. I regulate by listening to music, but in this instance I feel a deep desire to rest my head on someone’s shoulder and close my eyes.
It occurs to me that I have never been able to do this, that I have always had to hold up my own head. And now I am tired. I want, more than anything in this moment, for a man to wrap his arm around me as I lean into his shoulder, that nook where two parts – the base of the neck and the upper arm – come together as a cradle. A place to be held and to rest.
My watch vibrates for a third time: delayed, one last time, for another 30 minutes.