It used to be that those you loved could wait with you at the airport gate until it was time to board, and only then the tearful goodbyes would set in. Instead, my friend and I parted ways (tearfully) at the security line, just before I approached the x-ray device unshod, my wallet, keys, cell phone, and pocket unicorn placed in a thick plastic dish to be examined by a stranger with only an airport security badge to recommend them. I wish I could have sat next to my friend for that last hour before my plane arrived, cuddled up next to him with one final conversation by which to remember New York. Instead, I bawled blindly all the way through the terminal, until one kind woman walked up beside me, patted my back gently and smiled more consolingly than my mother ever could.
Atlanta marked the midpoint of my journey home. At no other point in my life have I had the urge to bolt and be free quite as I did standing there in that airport, hearing the names of faraway places being called out as passengers began their boarding. Half-garbled, the flight numbers slid through my ears– for all I could remember, they might have been calling out “Flight Pegasus Starshine Mako Shark to Las Vegas, now boarding, all zones.” It was “Las Vegas” that stuck, and the lights of the strip were all that mattered.
But I heard the four-digit international flights clearest of all. To Buenos Aires. To Paris. Why couldn’t these places be home? Why couldn’t I be going there? Home to sunny Sarasota, Florida– this pleased me not at all. But to be going to France or Argentina? That would have been something. Against my better judgment, I did not switch my ticket. I got on that flight to our little airport, so proud to bear the moniker of “international” with its single terminal and twelve gates. I arrived safe and sound on the sandy ground of my state, more or less whole. Less, I think.
You see, I think I may have left some important part of me back in New York. Or maybe it tried to follow me home, but in that key moment of indecision, sitting at the airport restaurant in Atlanta, it hopped that flight to Buenos Aires. Maybe it will write me a post card. I don’t count on it, though.