the airport

I was scared out of my mind in the ten minutes before I met you in that airport. I paced in and out of one of those news stands that sells magazines I know I shouldn’t buy but almost always do when I’m in airports on my way somewhere, that sells packages of peanut M&Ms and gum. Once I bought a pair of headphones for way too much money because I couldn’t imagine flying all the way to Baltimore and then taking the train to DC without a soundtrack (I almost always imagine my life to a soundtrack, as if somewhere someone wants to capture scenes of me with my head against a train window listening to The Civil Wars). I paced in and out of it, over and over, running one hand over my shoulders in that gesture of comfort you’ve now seen a half dozen times and through my hair, which wouldn’t be tamed no matter what I did, thinking about what I would do? The possibility of you, walking toward me in that airport terminal, the possibility of really seeing you…  I was so scared and so excited, and I paced in between packages of peanut M&Ms and People hoping that I’d figure out how to hide from you that my heart was beating a thousand times a minute, because I’d been waiting. And if I had known it, I’d have played “Dust to Dust” on repeat as I waited.

Sometimes I think we’re afraid of the beautiful.

The airport is this place I’d always imagined I’d meet you. In between a few of the times I imagined flying to Scotland in March or driving to Texas (I imagined sitting in my car outside your driveway and just hoping you’d be curious who I was, that you’d walk outside barefoot or your garage door would be open and I would walk in, halfway, and you’d be there painting) – I’ve always kind of hoped it would be the airport. It carries the ache of leaving and the joy of arriving, the familiar and the new. Somehow, in the long hallways and the too-bright lights, in the incessant announcements of delays and baggage claim carousel numbers, that’s where I always find myself again. It is the place where I cried about my sister getting married while eating a bagel from Dunkin’ Donuts. It is where I first left home – flying on Air France as an awkward and gangly 9th grader. It is where I first came home – England and Boston, oh, how I remember sobbing my way home from DC in the Baltimore airport at 6am realizing that I left, no certainty, no promise of return to that place.

The airport is where I meet that beautiful I am afraid of.

That beautiful is living in the carry-on bags courtesy of Virgin Atlantic they used to make for us with crayons and coloring books of airplanes who had friendly faces, in eating too many Twizzlers looking at a bridal magazine in a Houston terminal. The beautiful is in how I pace waiting for you in the basement baggage claim, how I check my phone so often, how I played Horse Feathers in July and country in August, how I used to fly to DC on a whim because something in me was aching for friends and cupcakes and the memory of me, there, and how I would come home, confused and remade.

The beautiful is here. Isn’t that the point of this long winding post? That the beautiful is arriving, is closer than we think?

That first time I found you running with my phone half out of my hand and losing track of the people I ran into on the way, searching for you in the crowds of late afternoon tourists and umbrellas, that was the beautiful.

And now, I anchor myself to it again – the beautiful is close to us.

Love,
hilary

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