“Night flight to San Francisco; chase the moon across America…” *
Well, actually, it’s more like a flight to San Francisco, at the break of dawn — and I’m chasing my insomnia.
As I’ve done often, especially when transient, I’m watching other women, collecting the evidence on how they wear their skin; on what it must have been like to be them — to be not me. To be unlike me.
I haven’t had many women in my earlier childhood to run my life by: Thrown into a nomadic lifestyle early on by my father’s profession, I didn’t get to keep my girlfriends for long. And motha? Well, motha was too young to be a mother; so she would eventually become my girlfriend — but not until I myself was ready for it. (That last one had to happen on my own terms. Sorry, motha.) At first, I would start to strut a little bit ahead of her, increasingly more on my own, more decisively; until she would take the lead no longer.
And so, while I’m chasing my insomnia at the break of this particular dawn, peaking through the sliding door of LAX, I watch the girls and women en route to their journeys. Some are traveling on the arms of their beloveds:
— Like the little girl sleeping in the most reassuring embrace of her father, with a dog furry like a golden retriever in place of a pillow. Soak it up, you little one: It’s going to be tough for other men to measure up. Little girls born to good fathers end up married to their high expectations for a really long time. I should know. But for now, you do have this. So, soak it up, my little one.
The young girl with a tired smile of someone that has traveled a lot: You’re walking ahead of a woman that looks like your mother, and I already see the impatience that inspires you to lead the way. And that’s wonderful. But don’t forget to look back, my young girl. Just on occasion, do look back at the one that you seem to despise the most, at times. She does know you the best — and she knows the best and the worst of you, while hopefully still sticking by you, unconditionally — and for all of that, you despise her at times.
You, beautiful girls, traveling in couplings: I pray your companions are worthy of your beauty. But more over, I hope your kindness is worth even more. They let you take the lead: these good men of yours volunteering their life to the impossible task of measuring up to your fathers. So, do look back at them, at times. They’re just doing their best.
The frail women accompanied by their grown children: Your life has been a success. And the equally frail women looked after by the uniformed staff of the airport: That’s alright, too.
“Your laptop should be in a tray by itself! Your shoes — placed directly on the conveyer belt! Do NOT place your keys inside the shoes!”
She is very tired: The security woman regurgitating the same information to my fellow travelers in line. We are all tired, of course; but the ones she finds herself serving, for the rest of her life — or for now, at least — at least, we are going somewhere. She, however, gets to stay behind and look over the safety of our journeys. It must be hard to do this much looking over, on the daily basis, for the rest of her life. Or for now, at least. And those that are leaving are often impatient, tried by circumstances; and they are sometimes unkind and so ungrateful. (Don’t they know she has their safety in mind?) To look over them — is her job, not necessarily her dream. And she is so tired of it, for now, at least.
“Does anybody have a nail file? ANYBODY? LADIES?!”
This one is standing in the middle of the waiting area by my gate. She, too, seems tired, but hopped-up on something. A few younger girls have been jolted by her aggression already. She has even shaken one of them awake from her tired sleep, and the young one has opened her eyes and smiled with that smile of someone that has traveled a lot.
The hopped-up creature carries on. She now jolts the lovely hippie with Jolie-esque lips who is listening her headphones and shooting impatient, concerned gazes at Gate 37B. (We are the only ones without a monitor, so the gurgled announcement by our tired stewardess is the only source of information. The Jolie-esque hippie can’t hear them, of course; so she jolts herself to remember to pay attention.)
The aggressive female passenger, however, is too hopped-up on something to notice the annoyance she is arousing in the youthful creature:
“Broke a nail! LOOK!” she shoves her hand under the Jolie-esque lips. The lovely hippie jumps, readjusts, and as kindly as her tiredness allows — excuses herself.
“Um. Anyone? LADIES! REALLY?!”
“I think I might,” I finally step up to the plate.
The hopped-up female leaps toward me and, while I put away my writing and rummage through my bag for my tired memories as to where I could’ve stored that darn thing, she looms above me. We are all chasing insomnia right now, on this San Francisco flight at dawn; but she may be chasing something else.
After the mission is accomplished she offers to buy me a drink: Kindness by affliction.
“Thank you: I don’t drink,” I say.
“Sorry, what? WHAT?!” Just like that, she switches off any tired niceness, dismissing the possibility for gratitude and takes offense. She gets offensive. “I can’t understand you?! Do you have an accent?”
Yep: Definitely, hopped-up on something. Perhaps, its tiredness she can no longer handle without an affliction.
I excuse myself to the bathroom: We’re done here, sister! The Jolie-esque lips shoot me a compassionate smile. I don’t look back.
“Flight VX (gurgle-gurgle) to San Francisco is now boarding at (gurgle-gurgle).”
The handsome Latin woman with perfectly glossed lips and a tired gaze has finally come out to announce the clearing skies up north. She has been so tormented by the impatience of those of us going somewhere. We tend to be so unkind, sometimes; so ungrateful.
But the important thing is: The San Francisco skies have cleared, at dawn; and each woman can carry on with her own journey. We can go now, and hopefully, most of us cannot wait to land. And as we board the aircraft to chase our mutual insomnia, I look back at the handsome Latin woman behind:
Here is my gratitude, love — and my very tired kindness.
* Kushner, Tony. Angels in America.