My words from traveling alone with a camera, notebook and loads of emotion.
I adore observing people. I’m fascinated by the unique stories and souls that roam this earth together. Everyone has a story.
And we are all just bystanders to each other.
Enjoy these descriptive short stories that spewed out of my fingers as I leaned over my luggage, quiet and isolated in a building full of people.
First was a sleek, middle-aged amorous woman whom I encountered waiting for the monorail to deliver us from point A to B; across the airport. She had a short, grayish pixie cut hairstyle in resemblance of a feminine Jamie Lee Curtis. She wore a darker grey T-shirt with some French words printed in cursive place font. She carried with her very light luggage.
She captured my gaze when she blew a sweet kiss to an, unknown to me, person at the opposite end of the tunnel where we were departing from. I looked behind in search for the target of her gesture. After being unable to identify which of the few middle-aged men she was gesturing at the end of the tunnel, which suddenly seemed metaphorically more light than the depth where we waited, I fixed my glance back to her. The next token I noted was her mouthing “I love you” once quickly, and then yet again, “I love you”, still muted but this time more defined than the first. The monorail arrived like a storm shuddering through our eardrums and she waved one last time before stepping in.
Just when I thought this was the last farewell of the love affair I so luckily witnessed as a bystander, she quickly paced back to the open automatic doors. She leaned her neck, elongated, outside of the door, to admire her lover one last time.
My flight had been delayed about an hour and 45 minutes. As a nervous traveler and obsessive planner/organizer, I insisted on arriving particularly early.
Once passing through rapid security and gathering my belongings, I located my gate, C34, and began the search for some food. This would help me kill some time.
The surrounding gates and pile of kiosk-style restaurants in the center swarmed with travelers like herds of ants fumbling in and out of their microscopic holes. I found a somewhat quiet seat to accommodate my grilled cheese, thick vanilla milkshake and I plugged in my phone to the charging port nearby and settled in, prepared to wait and relax for a while. I untied my hightop converse and folded my legs into a comfortable, antisocial huddle on my chair. I wore flowy pants with a peach and coral floral design. It wasn’t hard to feel cozy since they felt like pajamas. I sat back with my book and read intensely in-between disruptions of flight announcements.
The next distraction was an automated voice coming from someone’s phone repeating sentences in a foreign language aloud. It sounded like a Rosetta stone tape playing on speaker. The average person would have found this rude and distracting, but I didn’t mind so much. Each time the voice would repeat a statement, I would turn my head and look for the source of which it came from, but I was never successful. There were 2 women sitting on the left side of me who could have been the suspect. They each had their phones in their hand (as everyone did, actually, I think I was the only one reading paper), and the woman immediately closest to me had an orange headphone set with one ear bud in and one hanging on her shoulder. It could have been her, I pondered, and though she had the headphones in maybe the volume was just up really loud.
The practicing language continued, and I believe I started to even hear the person start to respond to the sentences, repeating each word out loud to be sure she gets them right.
There was a very old woman sitting on the end chair closest to the gate. She had a very heavy accent and seemed to not know English as a first language. She was with an even older companion who was seated in a wheelchair, facing her.
The orange headphone girl seemed athletic and put together, she was alone and fiddled with her phone in-between flipping through a magazine. She paused for a long moment on a page of a Sephora advertisement with some new and commercially appealing makeup.
The voice continued. It was loud, everyone else at the gate had to have heard it too.
Each time it repeated, I lifted my head looking for someone responding to their phone. I missed it every. time.
I wondered which of the women was actively learning, growing – bettering themselves. I wondered what language they were learning and why they wanted to learn it. Or needed to learn it. Maybe it was for a loved one, for travel, for themselves. Maybe it was so they felt more versatile – more enhanced.
I thought of the idea that, if you’re going to study a language, an airport is definitely a great place to do so, and a fitting place as well. Were they going home, leaving home, going far?
I admired their discipline. Both women had to be out of school, and they were training themselves to learn a new skill; an entire language. I thought of how respectable that practice is.
Determined. Passionate. Persistent.
I admired the voice that I was unable to match to an unknown face, that of a stranger who I felt I knew so well.
The bathroom was to the right of me, across a small hallway parallel to my gate’s entrance.
The entrance had a huge curved counter made of some navy blue marble. The entire bathroom was extremely geometric and almost entirely marble. There were two identical sides of stalls with the row of sinks meeting in the middle along another marble wall. I squatted in a luxurious stall with my belongings, which consisted of a purple carry-on suitcase and a sturdy black canvas backpack, crowded in front of my knees.
From directly on the other side of my latched door, and among the chatter and business surrounding, I heard a woman’s eager voice demand a young girl’s name, of which I so desperately wish I could remember.
The woman’s tone was not that of anger or aggression, yet it carried an extended reach and question. The young child quickly responded with an innocent, “yes?” as if obligated to answer in a particular submissive demeanor. The woman, who I was unsure of her relation to the girl, responded with an immediate sigh of relief, but without the release of worry or concern. “Oh, OK! I’m just seeing if you’re ok.” She was gentle.
Now, the leading to my assumption that this woman was not the girl’s mother was due to her extremely laid back tone and simple intent. Not to assume or generalize, but not every mother of a young child is particularly calm in an airport.
I wondered if she was a considerate aunt, or from relation to my own life, an older and responsible sister.
A moment passed and I still was sitting in my stall, contemplative and observant, though done with my business (we all do it!). I heard a new voice – maybe that of a different woman entirely, or just a different tone of the one before. She seemed to be on the phone, I learned after only hearing her side of the conversation and responses.
“Where is (boy’s name) sleeping? Is he in my bed?”
A moment passed.
I was washing my hands now, but the endearing voice still did not have a face – as it was coming from the opposite side of the wall of sinks that split the bathroom in half.
“I told you, I promised I’d rock you to sleep, sweetie, I promise.”
It reminded my of my baby (toddler) sister who yearns for the comforting touch, or presence, of her mother to soothe her to sleep.
Most flights were delayed that night due to thunder and lightning out of the humid Florida skies. I was lucky enough to not have prior obligations upon my arrival home, which influenced my worry-free waiting in that terminal. I could not relate to children waiting on their parents, or parents scurrying and worrying to get home to their children, who would now be up late anticipating their return.
I wondered where this mother was going, where she was coming from, and where she’d rock a sweet soul to sleep that night.
There was an attractive man walking behind me as we boarded our flight. I hoped he had noticed me and my hand on the strap of my luggage and admired my features the same way I noticed his.
I wondered if we’d end up sitting near each other when cramming into our plane of 141 other people.
He snagged one of the very first window seats he saw, and I was holding out for the middle of the plane.
There goes that.
I spotted a window seat, which I preferred, next to an older blonde woman in the middle seat and a gentleman of her age on the end. I gestured to see if anyone was sitting there, and after shaking their heads they each got up to make room for me to squeeze in. I struggled to lift my purple suitcase into the overhead storage and one of the other gentlemen in a seat nearby made an effort to help me. I pushed it in with independence.
I took off my canvas backpack and crab-walked through the seat by the blonde, whom once I sat, she told me, considerately, “I put this seat lever up to make it easier for you.” I didn’t think much of the gesture, but I knew I would’ve done the same. I put the arm rest back down, tucked my bag under the seat in front of me and settled in.
A baby began to cry in the row next to us. She mumbled a dramatic “oh boy” and we turned to each other with wide eyes and attitude, as if both of us already quite pessimistic about this fully loaded, 2 hour delayed flight.
We stayed silent next to each other for a while during take off. She was visibly nervous about the turbulence and bumpiness and the lighting from the storm clouds that had already passed us, way off in the distance. Her hands would flatten and she would put her book down, look up and grab on to the seat in front of her whenever our plane would bump or jiggle.
The turbulence went on like this for a decent amount of time after take off. Eventually, I reached into my backpack side pocket and pulled out my pouch of travel-friendly crystals. I handed her two of them, a long cylinder shaped Ruby in Malachite and a very small pebble of a black stone of which I can’t remember.
“These help me when I get anxious while traveling. They help promote safety and guidance, if you’d like to hold them and absorb their power.”
She happily took them into her palms and began observing the green malachite. She admired it and we got into talking about the stories of how I collect most of my crystals, we talked slightly about the influence and the history of them used in medicinal purposes in ancient times.
This opened up so many doors. I don’t really know in which order all the conversations happened, but we didn’t stop talking for the rest of the entire flight, which was a 3 hour ride direct into Providence.
I learned about Kim’s sons, one born May 30th and one born May 1st. I learned about her parents, and she choked up when she talked about her dad’s illness and then his death. I learned about her sister who lives 100 miles away but how she still visited them every weekend after her brother-in-law died in a fatal car accident, and she told me about her niece who grew up without her father, and how she’s a bit antisocial now in school, and that she acts a little differently around her friends. I learned about her canal/sacral massage and her energy healing therapist, and her favorite wellness office. I learned about her father in law who was a survivor of the holocaust, who lived in Tampa now but had visited Poland recently and saw the list of his ancestors of which were left behind. I learned about her marriage of 36 years and how she still can’t seem to figure him out just by looking in his eyes, and I thought of the force of attraction and how the urge to figure someone out can keep us wanting more. And I learned about her empathy when she explained how heavily she absorbs energies around her, both good and bad, and how she gets anxiety when going out into crowded areas with people and how she’ll hide behind her husband or take another lap around the stairs of her condo complex just to avoid someone.
I learned how similar I am to Kim. I learned that two people on a plane seating 143 can just so happen to sit next to each other, and two souls can just so happen to open up with such vulnerability, and I confirmed that it all happens for a reason.
I gave Kim my mother’s email in hopes that she would attend one of her meditations, partially because I had a feeling they would get along tremendously well, and partially because I really wanted a chance to see her again.
We landed and loaded off the plane in an organized fashion. I exchanged a broad smile with Kim’s husband, who turned out to be the man fast asleep on the outer seat next to her. I embraced Kim for a hug, of which made her smile so gently. We got each other’s faces straight on for the first time, since we had been turned to the side chatting in our crammed Southwest seats. I told Kim I really hoped our paths crossed again someday.
The last thing I learned, which I had intended to happen at the end of our flight, was Kim’s zodiac sign.
Kim the Leo.
Stay observant, stay vulnerable, stay receptive, stay beautiful. Safe travels.