I am at the airport. I despise airports. Airports have always brought back floods of memories… but for some reason never the warm, fuzzy ones I would like to have. The airport has been a bittersweet experience my whole entire life. My first plane trip was to see my sister… I think I must have been like 14 years old. And now at age 26 I am taking that flight to see her again. I haven’t been up to NY since May when I went through my darker stage of grief.
The airport has always been so odd to me. And now it’s just annoying. The moment you walk in you are surrounded by rushing people… hurrying from place to another. Parents dragging their children by the arms… tourists still wearing their Mickey Mouse ears and fiesta hats. Toting blue Disney bags filled with overpriced junk they will never use again. Then you wait in a line to check in… and pray your luggage doesn’t weight too much. Because if it does you have to drag all your shit out in front of everyone and hope you shove 5 lbs worth of socks and underwear in your carry on. Then there is the WORST part of it all…security. I know that I want to be safe on a plane. I know that these people are doing their jobs. I just don’t know how efficient it is all the time. And no one gets the idea to take off metal objects. YES, WOMAN. THAT MEANS YOUR GAUDY BOBO BELT!!!
As I was checking in today I had an interesting experience that sort of took be by surprise. The security guy checking my ID and boarding pass looked at me and said “I just want to express my extreme condolences to you…” Then he paused.
Omg. He knows??? How is that possible? Is there some code written out on my boarding pass or license?? “Watch out for this one. She’s a widow and unstable.” “Give this woman a break. Her fiancé died in April.” I just was wide eyed and said… “…uh…thank you..”
And he continued “we both have the same birthday. It sucks, doesn’t it?”
Oh my God. Are you kidding me? It was too late. I was already caught off guard. So now here I am… my eyes are swelling up with tears and I start to feel shaky. He must have thought my birthday was a real touchy subject.
After security check I go through to my terminal and play the waiting game/people watching game. Isn’t it interesting what people decide to wear on an airplane? Like the people in suits. Are they getting right off the plane and stepping into a meeting? What about the women in a full out matching sweatsuit. So freakin’ gaudy. Or the girls in 4 inch heels. Are you going to the club afterwards? You can’t possibly be comfortable walking around in those.
My airport outfit of choice for tonight: blue jeans, The National t-shirt, flip flops and hoodie if needed. John taught me the importance of hoodies while traveling. Lets face it. John lived in hoodies and this one of the useful things he got ou of it. Once I get on the plane and it starts to take off I can put my hood on and close my eyes to act like I am sleeping while my headphones hide secretly under the hood. No one bothers me… nor should they. I HAVE to have music on at take off. HAVE TO. And I always start with one song (as tradition)… “Recycled Air” by the Postal Service. John used to get my ipod out for me and we would listen to the song together. He knew me so well… even to the point of what song I listened to when I flew on an airplane. Once John and I started dating… I HATED traveling without him by my side. In my drum corps years I would fly at least once a month to camps… and I remember how exhausted I would be… how nervous I was going to camp and how extremely tired I was going back home. I remember there was this one time where I flying somewhere without John and he dropped me off at the airport. I lost it as I went through security. Then they had to scan me and I was still in tears… with John still in sight. He wouldn’t leave until I was completely out of sight. I think the worst time was when I dropped him off at the airport when he went to Phantom his last year marching… I was a wreck. Weeks without him seemed impossible. Now I will be living the rest of my life without him. I guess it still bothers me. I can still see his face at the airport… waving to me… blowing me kisses… holding my hand til the very end.
And then there were the times we traveled together. There is something about getting to share your travels with the person you love. Our trip to Europe was perfect timing in our lives… I am so glad we got to do it. Even though the flight scared the living shit out of me. But John was a great partner to have for plane rides. Him holding on to my hand tight… rubbing my fingers and thigh when I felt even the slightest shake in the cabin. He never quite understood my anxiety but he learned to help me with it. He loved me and wanted only for me to be comfortable. This included letting me take the window seat when I wanted and laying all over him… sometimes laying my legs across his lap and head into his chest. There was something about his strength that made me feel safe. And if I were to crash in the plane… I would hold on to him the whole way down. And we would leave together. I guess I always assumed we would… just like at the end of The Notebook. I thought we would die old and together. Happy with our successes in life and surrounded by the family we loved.
But reality now is when I go on an airplane I have to search out the safest people to sit next to. On this flight I am sitting next to a nice older couple. First row. First to get off the plane. I am easy … relaxed… thanks to the clonazapam… and a bud light on the way. But if this plane were to go down I would not have anyone to cling to and say my last “I love yous” to. And it still bothers me that I didn’t get a more official goodbye to john. I couldn’t lean in his ear while his heart made it’s final beats and whisper “I love you more than life itself… and always will. You are my world….” If those would have been the words at all. I am sure it would have been more frantic like “John, don’t leave me now. I need you. We need to be together forever…. Please stay.” I know if John could have fought it he would have.
There’s something about an airport that brings back the floods of memories… from all the trips we took…. From all the goodbyes and hellos. From being in the longest line ever in Paris and missing our multiple flights in Washington D.C. To crying hysterically as I left Rockford, IL to find a job…. To coming into Tallahassee with John waiting at the other end with a dozen roses and a limo. To literally mauling John over when he returned from a summer of teaching Phantom Regiment. But in the end we were always reunited. It wasn’t an airport or an airplane that separated us from each other. It was an unseen force. Mysterious and out of nowhere.
And a big part of me has to turn my head when I see couples hugging at the airport. I hate reading the welcome home signs… seeing people kiss and hug. It’s like the opening credits of Love Actually (which I used to think was quite beautiful… and now all I can think about is how that I won’t be able to experience that again. These couples have something I don’t. They get to reunite again. I remember that feeling. Of missing something so bad that it literally brought you weak in the knees when the day came back that you had it once again. But, John will not be arriving on a plane…. Ever. There will be no grand reunion ever again here on Earth. I just hope that we will have it in heaven….
And when the plane lands in Long Island I will see my sister. And I miss her… and I am so happy to be with her… but I also have a longing for it to be my sweet John with her. Like… “surprise… I have been here all along.” I wouldn’t be mad. I wouldn’t mind. I just would kiss his sweet beautiful face over and over and over again.
Tomorrow is 6 months.
How could this have happened already? How did I survive? Besides medication , friends , family and alcohol. And God. My faith has definitely helped me survive. Because there is hope that one day we will meet in heaven again.
Im still on the plane. I am listening to the new Sufjan Stevens album. It’s amazing. I wonder if music in heaven sounds remotely close to the music we have down on Earth. I am sure that John has a big part in it now. Perhaps he is teaching the angels how to drum out some mad beats. They sure did the day of his funeral. There was a huge lightning storm which sounded like a million bass drums in the sky. Everyone agreed it was John. And I do too. John is still very much alive in the world around me. I think part of him lingers in the airport… part of him lingers in my car… part of him lingers in the streets of Orlando and in the places we used to visit. I think he’s watching me. And I can only hope that he can accept I am doing the best I can.