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Gate C12 MAG
“Okay, honey, here’s 20 dollars in case anything happens.”
“Thanks, Mom.” We hug good-bye and I turn to board the plane. My heart sinks as I stand in line,gripping my carry on. Don’t turn around, I tell myself, knowing that if I do I won’t be able to continue. I smile at the flight attendant as she points to my seat.
When I sit I’m wedged between an incredibly large man whose excessive perspiration can be felt through my pant leg and a very small elderly woman who seems overly content with the novel she’s reading because every time she turns the page a giggle eases out from between her dentures. I lean back and turn my air up all the way, breathing in the recycled air and attempting to ignore the variety of disturbing odors. I look down at my layover ticket clenched in my fingers. Gate C12, the doorway to home, the doorway to the place I don’t want to be.
“Ladies and gentleman, we will be landing in ten minutes. The captain has turned on the seat belt sign.” Thank goodness. I roll my eyes as I feel my seat being kicked by a woman repeatedly attempting to cross her legs in a three-inch space. My stomach lurches as we arrive at the gate, but the relief is immediate as I step into the airport. I hope that my next flight is better.
I walk over to a table in the cafeteria and lean on the railing to watch the people below hugging their families, staring in awe at the vastness of the place that will take them anywhere their hearts desire.
I pick at my pizza and my eyes swell as I realize that in an hour I will be on my way home. Another summer come and gone with nothing to show but memories. I look up to see the elderly woman from my flight walking toward my table.
“Hello, child. Mind if an old fart rests her bottom?” she asks.
“Sure,” I smile.
She smiles, sets her carry-on beside mine and looks around. “Do you love it?” she asks. I feel my eyebrows rise.
“This place. Kind of like the in-between, ya know?” I smile and nod, not sure what to make of her statement. “When you’re here, you’re not really anywhere. Travel the country and never have to leave the airport ... ” She laughs as I watch her pop some sort of medication. I finish my pizza with a sigh.
“What’s the matter, are you homesick?” she asks.
I smirk and my insides shiver at the idea of missing the place I’m headed.
“No.” Then for a reason I will never understand, I explain everything, spilling my gut. “I’m sorry,” I say when I finish.
“You know, home is where the mind is free. It has nothing to do with where your body happens to be.” I look at the floor, watching my tears hit the cracked tiles. “They can’t live separately forever, though” she says. “Your body will feel what your mind already knows, and soon you can’t stay home. The streets won’t be as wide, the sky not as bright and the worst thing of all, child, is that you’ll know it.” I shake my head, look the woman in the eye and smile.
“Don’t thank me, honey. Thank this place.” She stands and grabs her carry-on. “After all, that’s what this in-between is for ... to give you a chance to think.”
I watch her walk away until she is unrecognizable in the crowd. A woman’s raspy voice comes over the intercom, “Now boarding at Gate C12 ....”