Far From the Home I Love

airplane snow

I would give the Chicago Midway Airport floor 2 stars out of a possible 5.

My only other airport floor sleep was the St. Louis airport, I have to say there was a certain bounce to that floor, a certain wider ambiance, more natural light to disturb your sleep, though.  Christmastime 1995.

Actually I was so tired when I realized I was sleeping at the airport that I kind of didn’t give a shit.

Chicago is, as Tevye would say,  a “frozen wasteland.”  My dad thinks of that song every time one of us threatens to move away.  “He does not ask me, I want to go.”  The appeal of Siberia.

My grandma loved New York, as I have mentioned, so in leaving town, I walked from 18th Street to 42nd along 8th Avenue, although there was no reason for me to do this, I felt like being in New York a little longer.  Parts of that walk are the New York of movies, that crowded sidewalk shot.  Mostly my life there is not that, it is roomy streets in Chelsea and brownstone streets in Brooklyn, some of them expensive and tenderly cared for, some of them peeling paint.

I should have just gone to Penn Station and taken a bus from there to the airport.

I kept walking.

It’s a walking city, of course.

I always wanted to be someone, and my grandma never voiced an ambitious thought to me, she seemed to like being comfortable.

Me who have sought conflict and argument and struggle wherever I turned, from whom I dated to where I lived and my job and my friends, all people and situations who challenged me, were always a bit out of my reach, I’ve always had to date someone who almost didn’t want me, someone I almost couldn’t get along with.  I have to live in the sketchiest neighborhood.

But we both loved the theater.  Why did my grandma like it?  I don’t know.  She didn’t like to get dressed up, like I do. When she moved, there was no box marked, “Gowns, masks, and wigs.”  And she wasn’t thirsty for art, like I always am.

I know she liked people, talking to people, maybe that was the main thing, New York is chock-full of people to talk to.  It’s my least favorite thing there.  New York for me was always about ambition, until I moved here, and I realized that like my grandma, the nice thing is New Yorkers, we’re-all-in-this-together New Yorkers, a million other people who say they are writers and artists and make stuff and think it’s normal, millions and millions of people who are perfectly nice and wicked and pretty and ugly and their faces for you to look at and wonder.

I looked at Times Square, it was daytime, it is, you know, less so in daytime.  It was only a couple of weeks ago I saw it at night.  It makes you a real New Yorker to hate Times Square.  Secretly, though, I do not hate it.

I was going to take the S train from Times Square to Grand Central.  When I was nineteen, I took the S train.  The S only goes two places, it paces back and forth between Times Square and Grand Central all day.  It’s a good starter train.  You can’t make a mistake.  Nothing ever goes wrong.

We never took the subway with my grandparents.  It was the ’80s.  People from out of town, especially with kids, didn’t take the subway.  We walked our little feet off.  My grandparents walked so fast we could hardly keep up with them.  A very few times we took cabs.

In Central Park in the ’80s, there was no water, they did not sell water then, it did not come in bottles.  We had to look for a water fountain.

I got on the S train, on Track 1, with my roller suitcase.  I sat down on the two-person bench.  A white lady sat next to me.  When the train stopped at the other end, she said, “I’ll help you up if you help me up.”  I chuckled.  “Have a good trip, wherever you are going,” she said.  My luggage tag clearly said Brooklyn, I was a native going away, not a tourist, everyone could see.

I went upstairs to look at the ceiling in Grand Central, and that could have made me cry, although I never went there with my Grandma (trains from Jersey, where we came from, go into Penn Station), definitely Grand Central was the start of New York being mine as an adult, it is so beautiful.  It has been mine a long time now, almost twenty years, changing my clothes in the bathroom there, into a dress I had just bought, to go to the theater and see “Cabaret,” or maybe “I Am My Own Wife.”

I didn’t cry at Grand Central, although it would have been a good choice of a place to cry.  I wandered around looking for the bookstore, like a true addict, I had it in my head that if I bought this one book for the trip, I would be all right.

The bookstore has closed, stupid Kindles.

My cab driver to the airport was Romanian, showed me photos of his chubby-cheeked son, told me I should see the Dracula castle if I went to Romania, and handed me his phone number as I got out of the cab.  I haven’t been asked out in a while, so that was nice.  It seemed we had exhausted our conversational material, though, during our ride.

I flew to Chicago, got on another airplane, sat on that airplane while it snowed and snowed, dry snow, slowly covering my little porthole, then the wind would blow and I could see the whole scene again, the blue and orange painted planes lined up like dolphins waiting to go on, the lights of the runways which I have always loved, the blue are my favorite, the orange are lovely, too, and those signs with the mysterious numbers and letters and the dash.

I fell asleep there for a while.

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