Airports

There is something melancholy about airports.

Maybe it’s the constant sense of ending and beginning, of adventure and homecoming overlapping. There is a constant layering of hellos and goodbyes, often physical as well as emotional. Arrivals above, departures below. Arrivals below, departures above. Our lives crisscross, we get off of a plane and see a waiting area full of people ready to board the same plane to the city we’ve just left. Over and over, back and forth, planes circle and land and others take off.

I always want to cry in airports. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I hide in a stall and let myself cry silently until there is no more mascara left on my hands when I wipe my cheeks. Sometimes I choke it back, spending anxious seconds willing my eyes not to overflow, willing the tears to go back where they came from. Yesterday I stubbornly kept staring at my book, waiting for the words to clear up so I could keep reading.

I don’t like to show much emotion in public. I don’t like to show much emotion past, “This is really fun!” period. But airports don’t feel public to me. They’re intimate spaces where we’re all under the same constraints, and they’re the only thing I understand completely. I am the person who can glide through security, who has her plastic bag out and ready to go, who jokes with security and makes conversation with the gate agents. I slip into airports as easily as some of my friends slip into languages, immediately becoming a part of a system alien to most people I know.

We have intimate moments in airports, too. Hellos and goodbyes and fears and hopes and nerves and excitement become a pulsing jumble that moves through the building, growing and growing, until little bits of it fly away, drive away, and the last plane disembarks leaving it quiet, silent, dark. It’s just for a few hours, it’s just until morning, but it’s the only time it gets to be alone. And, come to think of it, that’s a little sad, too.

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