On my recent work trip to Dallas, I landed at DFW after midnight Sunday night and walked out of the airport into a night that was warmer by twenty degrees than it had been when I left sunny San Luis Obispo at four that same afternoon. I took an Uber into uptown and was dropped off at a hotel where multiple men speaking in falsetto rushed to assist me and called me ma’am, and where the gold satin shades next to the bath raised up and down by remote. When leg and foot cramps woke me at 2am, being able to view the city lights of Dallas from a pitch black, deep, hot water bath made it the most beautiful episode of late night foot cramps I’ve ever had by far.
I got up the next morning and walked across the street to my office where I worked my brain to a bloody pulp the entire week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Bloody pulp, all five days.
After lunch at the office with the girls on Friday (where we laughed way too loudly in the conference room with the glass walls, while the rest of the office worked quietly away in plain view of our hilarity), I somehow shoved all of my workly goods into bags that were too small and my brain went along with my body as they both hurled themselves out the door to my Uber to start my journey home. Home. Where my people live. Where a bonfire on the beach would be waiting for me. Where there are no satin shades next to bathtubs and nobody wears high heels or carries designer bags. Where hair dries naturally and blows freely in the ocean breeze and bare feet in the sand are much preferred to shoes of any kind. What different worlds I live in.
Halfway to the airport I got notice that my flight had been delayed an hour, which was the exact connection time that I was supposed to have in the Phoenix airport. And there I sat in the backseat of my Uber, unable to act or do anything at all, just a bit player in the grand game being played by the Federal Aviation Admistration and I bore no responsibility for the outcome of millions of travelers, all trying to get somewhere, just like me. After arriving at the airport and then sitting some more, my plane finally ascended into the dark and stormy afternoon skies of Dallas, an hour and a half after the scheduled departure time. The clouds loomed ominously in front of me and my fellow passengers and gave no indication that there was ever a sun that shone upon earth. I watched the dramatic shadows they made on the ground below us while the wind blew them swiftly overhead. I sat in my seat, a passively interested observer, feeling small and unafraid and irresponsible, as our plane dove headlong into those very clouds. When we hit the blackness, we all gripped the handles of our seats a little tighter as the clouds enveloped our little plane and shook it to its core. And then, in an instant, the shaking subsided as we burst through to the other side, where clouds that had five seconds before been dark and foreboding, were now glorious and white and fluffy and bright, reflecting the magnificent sunlight that was suddenly everywhere. Still unafraid and somewhat awed, I gazed out my window at the difference in scenery, sometimes catching glimpses of the city we had left below us as the piles of white fluffiness broke apart and came together again while we climbed ever upward.
Two hours later, we landed and pulled up to our gate in Phoenix, two minutes before my connecting flight was supposed to take off. Never one to lose hope, I ran like mad off that airplane, not caring who I offended in the process. I ran with no thought other than the thought of home. I arrived breathless at the gate only for the sympathetic gate agent to look at me kindly while shaking his head and saying, “It just left. Five minutes ago. I held it as long as I could”. I sat down and called my husband and we laughed to the point of hysteria because what else was there to do while the now worthless adrenaline continued its meaningless course throughout my tired body?
Since the next flight home didn’t leave for three and a half hours, I found myself a nice big, greasy burger and a glass of wine, put in my headphones and began to watch Manchester By the Sea on my phone. There I sat, in a busy restaurant in the Phoenix airport, surrounded by other weary travelers and their crying babies, watching one of the most intensely sad movies I have ever seen for two hours. The waitress kept checking on me and I kept waving her away and drinking my wine and I’m telling you what. I bawled like a baby. That was some good movie writing (and acting) right there. Maybe a good cry was exactly what I needed after the bloody pulp brain work and the bloody adrenaline body work as I waited in between two worlds.
I finished the movie just in time to hear my flight number being called to begin boarding. I grabbed my bags, and walked out into the Phoenix night, where it was a good twenty degrees hotter than it had been when I left a cloudy, muggy Dallas at four that same afternoon. I climbed the ramp of my little plane that would take me to the little town I now call home.
I watched the lights of Phoenix as we ascended into the night sky. I would arrive too late for any bonfires, but I would arrive home nonetheless.
Where my world was waiting.