I’ve got one charge left. Only a few minutes of battery on this laptop, and a cacophony of thoughts to spew out before the screen goes black. I left my charger in the hotel room 3 hours away. Stupid. STUPID. But still, here we are. Type, type. Clickity clack.
I’m sitting in the airport in Nelson, New Zealand, and when I look around me, everyone is relaxed. “This is not how airports are supposed to work,” I say to myself. Airport security was an airline employee weighing my bag to see if I needed to check it or not. Her name was Glenda. She smiled at me. Thank you, Glenda.
A cool breeze blows through the terminal. Everything is fresh; the air is new. There is no recycled air here. The gate is a sliding glass door to a sidewalk that leads to a plane. Security is a room beside the gate where a guy is solving sodoku puzzles with a pencil that has one of those crazy rubber pencil toppers over the eraser. He probably doesn’t make mistakes. How could he? Everything seems right here.
Right in front of the gate is a small stand for coffee with a few tables. It’s quite aptly named “The Cafe,” so as to not overcomplicate things. Why do that? Diner tables are situated around the oddly quiet espresso machine. A flock of tourists sip at espresso, read trade paperbacks, and talk with one another. Their shoulders are dropped. Their ease makes me cautious and nervous. Classic Frank. “Why do I feel human in an airport? Why are we not being treated like cattle?” I’m on guard.
Things are not as they should be. And yet, it feels as if we are all in the right place.
A couple on honeymoon sit together quietly at one of the small tables. I wonder what they’re feeling, and if they realize that life begins right now. Right this very instant, when they break from this cocoon, return home, pass the date line and breathe yesterday’s air. They’re going back to San Francisco, ready to set heaven and earth on fire with whatever bottled spark they’ve given one another.
75% charge. Shit.
She’s flipping through a magazine. He’s only looking at her. They’re silent. What is there to say? As if by magic, they’ll descend from the sky 6 hours before they left, go to their apartment, and everything will be completely different and yet all of their furniture will be exactly in the same spot.
It is tempting to think there are no beginnings, no rebirths. Every new day we have to live with yesterday. That doesn’t mean we can’t change. Change is slower than we think. It sneaks up on us. We can’t shed our skin like snakes, we replace our cells, one-by-one. We cross-fade into becoming new people. One day you wake up and look in the mirror and say “Who is this person?”
Hello, nice to meet you.
But when we travel, we move more rapidly than the rest of the world. We change faster, revise who we are quicker. I think when we travel our cells replace themselves with more rapidity. We may not be able to shed our skin, but through the sheer velocity of movement, we slough off our old selves.
But that furniture is still in the same spot when we return home. Mostly, it seems that things will be as they were before. And yet, not. Things are different now. I know it. They WILL be different. And better. This time through, I’ll be better. At least that is how it feels. But it’s always tough to separate how things feel and what they really are.
50%. Halfway down.
But I think it’s different now. I really think it is. Because, as I sit here in this air terminal, I’m at a seam. One thing is ending, another is beginning, and I’m toeing a sharp division of what came before and what will come after. It’s a line that cuts through the whole arrangement. And I just realized something.
I’ve got one charge left. And only one. So I need to get out the things that I want to say, the things I feel that must be said. We can do it differently this time around. We can tell the stories we want to tell and say the things we need to say. We can do better. We can be better.
I’m in New Zealand, and it’s tomorrow. I lived to tomorrow, so there is no fear. What would you do if you knew you were going to see tomorrow and the sun was out and the air was fresh and everyone was relaxed with their shoulders dropped and everything was okay? This isn’t a metaphor. I’m reporting to you from the future. It’s nice here. Beautiful day.
Everything seems to be in the right spot. Except that bird.
Pecking about the legs of the chairs is a small sparrow. She’s happily hopping around, fat and content, picking off most of the crumbs dropped from the cookies and croissants served at The Cafe. She seems happy. And then I wonder if she realizes that this isn’t what birds are meant to do. She seems to be well-fed, but sometimes we get fat because we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do. I suppose she is eating, and that’s one way to stay alive. But, it is certainly not flying. Bird’s gotta fly.
There’s a man in a Loyola Law sweatshirt sitting at the next table, drinking a flat white from a cup where the handle is too small to fit but one finger through. He’s reading the local Nelson newspaper. He’s folded it diligently, reversed back onto itself, to surface some sort of gem of an article. For him: text about how too many drowning deaths occur here in New Zealand. But for me, on the other side of the paper, projected out to the world, writ large is a headline: “What is there to be scared of?”
Sometimes we say things by accident. Those are usually the best things. Sometimes by giving ourselves what we want, we give other people what they need.
What is there to be scared of, Frank? Nothing. Drop your shoulders. “Join us,” the others say from their Cafe tables. “Do what you want. They won’t abandon you.” I nod and smile, feeling more self-assured. The lawyer breaks his gaze from the paper to see me stupidly smiling and nodding. He gives a kindly head nod back, unaware of the affirmation he accidentally gave. He must think I’m crazy. I hope we sit by each other on the flight so I can explain everything to him. He’ll still think I’m crazy.
The battery is almost dead. I’ve got one charge, and I left my power cable at the hotel in Wellington. Stupid. STUPID. But it’s okay. Because I’m where I need to be. And I’ve got one charge, and I’m using it the best that I can. What is there to be scared of? My battery is almost dead. So what? A family walks back in to the terminal from out by the picnic tables and as the doors swing open, the bird flies out.
So, this is a fresh beginning. I’ll stumble through a gate to board a plane and live through the same day twice. Now I know: I’ve got one charge, and I need to get everything out, because my cells are replacing themselves faster than they ever have before. I have velocity. Which is good, because I’ve got to finish this up before I run out of ti