lift and descend.

first time: california. twelve and unhappy with the meal. my legs got antsy, my stomach flipped like when I rode the gravitron. I remember I felt old. Not mature, "I'm an adult now" but "make sure the baby has her bottle / will this never end" old.

Since then planes have become a constant part of my routine. Holidays equate to airports and love is dictated by oil prices and ATA timetables. There's something sacred for me about the ritual. There is the line, the arms extended search, the communal wait, newspaper, safety routine, the lift, the drop, crossing the barrier. I have favorites. Descending into PDX during the day, the Columbia River sweeping us along, the layover in Chicago, Indy at night. I am always hungry when I fly, unable to track down meat-less fare, and this leaves me frazzled and awake. But after all these years I have learned to surrender to my seat once it arrives. I can sleep through all but the worst turbulence.

I heard a radio piece once where a lot of people described how the silliest things made them cry on planes. Bad movies, sentimental airline radio songs. That it was a space where they found themselves overcome. If you were to happen upon me at 6 AM at LaGuardia you might find me ashambles. Shaky from a too-early-to-smoke cigarette. I'm always leaving someone and so I cry a lot. One week at home makes me feel so connected to my family that leaving them feels like that awful night at the end of high school when I tucked in my youngest sib in bed and drove north, flew east, left. When she jokes about us abandoning her at home -- with those two lost souls that boo and holler and haunt her -- there is a pang so deep in my stomach that it is hard to identify as an emotion. It is more like a lever installed especially for her. She could pull it any time she wanted, any of them could really, and my body would be obliged to follow. They have never utilized it, never asked much of me at all, given me my space, my distance, my city. I wonder if they even know it's there. Because they never say "come back" they only look so excited, giggle so loud, when it is mentioned. They celebrate every possibility but they do me the favor of never asking. So they do know then.

All this is to say that I walked to work today tugging a roll-along suitcase. So much more convenient then the heavy olden thing I prefer to have on these trips. And I felt, like I always do, that I was about to leave it all behind again. That a move, a change, a cleansing was calling my name. That I was going home. Or again chasing that notion of home that I've never really felt and constantly yearned after. I have tried to imagine a place where all the people I love are reachable. A city so complete that it holds open space within it, where I am tied and set loose all at once. Where no one is twelve hours, two plane changes, and a three hour drive on top of it -- away.

What a strange world it would be. My parents living next to the radical queers, my aunt rooming with the young dykes, my grandmother in the entrance to the art opening. That would be home right, that would make this life whole -- if I could share everything all at once. As soon as I see it, it falls apart. The frame splits and the houses I have crafted fall away from one another, one back into the cavernous street scene, one cascading down the choppy river. My grandmother turns back from the canvas in horror and looks at me askew. I am made different, something in what she sees suddenly broken. My aunt -- maybe my aunt could hang -- but it would be a strange thing the way that my friends would take her, own her. I would hate the way they told her stories, used her life, her poverty, as their credibility. I know a woman named Deb they would say, she is this sociological example. She is this thing for me to use in conversation. Just like I'm doing now.

But I'm not even flying home. I'm going to the middle of some mid-western city to spend time with a family that is not my own. Still, I'm flying alone to get there. Which means an evening in an airport and cold Wendy's fries. I have headphones and a letter to write. I have to say something, although I have not yet been able to imagine what words will work. I'm sure I will find them more easily in that in-between piece of atmosphere. I have, at the very least, faith in travel.


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