by: d. heidel

I was waiting here.  It was right here.  Waiting.

And what did you see, looking out those windows?

Planes, I guess.  Mostly I was just waiting for my flight.  Waiting to get out.  Waiting to head back to New York. 

And what is it that you see now?

The same thing but different.  Planes moving about the tarmac, their jets sending shimmers into the day.  The tarmac, an endless stretch of concrete, a civilizational accomplishment – reinforced concrete – and yet, a desert, a wasteland, a kind of oblivion that leads to freeway (more oblivion) and, beyond, the city.  I want to go again to the city.  I want to drink it.  I want to lie on its beach.  I want to wrap myself in its winter.  And yet, this airport desert – is too much with me.  But, all the same, I have a book.  A book I bought here in this airport and never got around to reading.  A Russian drama, dark and brooding.  I flip through the pages: fear and remorse.  I look up and the air out there is all shimmer and haze behind a tailfin.  Between terminal and runway, hulking aluminum moving like a grounded bird – awkward, unwieldy, moving like words stacked too thickly on paper.  Are you still there?  Do you want to know what else I see?  What else I smell?  Faint jet fuel and the odors of the terminal itself: sweat, lived-in clothing, cleaning products and restrooms.  Are you there?  Let me tell you.  Please, let me tell you.  It’s a while before I have to leave, before I can leave, before I leave the desert of the tarmac behind, leave the earth to recede outside of my pressurized window.  “Can I get you something?” she will ask, her voice cheery but somehow small inside of the cramped cabin.  “Diet Coke is fine.”  Caffeine will be good.  But I’ll sleep anyway.  And when I awake, the hulking body of the thing will be moving again, somewhere between runway and terminal.  Detroit.  Or Minneapolis.  Or LaGuardia.  Or Atlanta.  I’ve never been to Atlanta.  Except when flying Delta.  And then, it all smells like jet fuel and lived-in clothing.  You’d like it.  Sunny and jet fuel.  And you could ask me then, What do you see?  And I would answer how things have changed since my first time in Atlanta, how it was crowded that day; but how it’s not at all crowded today.  “You should see the city that Sherman burned,” you’d tell me.  And I’d tell you how I’m just passing through, got no time for history or buses or nightclubs.  I’m just waiting, I’d say.  Waiting for my next flight.