I am somewhere between supine and sitting up on my couch where I have taken residence the entire week. Most the movement taking place in a continual rearrangement of pillows and positions and blankets, all in an effort to achieve comfort in one way or another, but never quite succeeding. Never finding that Goldilocks Bed where all things felt in place; temperate. Outside it thunders, as it has every afternoon this week, hinting at another storm, but it has yet to produce rain. Monty is in mental disarray, gyrating off and on in these instances, thunder, and it’s his instinct apparently, that guides him to squeeze his awkward, girthy body into the narrowest nooks of his own making, which right now, is between the sofa and coffee table beneath my outstretched legs. When I go to the bathroom, he wedges himself between the toilet and the wall. Another round of gyrating. Every time it cracks suddenly or it grumbles with that deep rocky tenor, he stares up at me suspiciously with visceral worry in the whites of his eyes. As if to say “See, I told you” like thunder itself was proof that it were dangerous, that we’re unsafe inside somehow. Maybe we are and I’m too dense to know it.
My petting and reassuring him with extremely human explanations, my instinct, apparently, does nothing to quell his fears. A boyfriend once told me, as is distinctly male instinct, that it’s my own cushioning and coddling him in my high-pitched, soothing voice that makes him nervous, because it communicates that there’s something to worry about. If you only acted normal, so would he. But I am beyond certain now, as I was then, that this is an incorrect hypothesis, not just because of the many instances of thunder and attached panic I’d witnessed by then, but because once, a few years ago, I came home from the grocery store in the middle of an aggressively loud storm, and discovered Monty not only in the bathroom, but in the bathtub, quivering. This is both the saddest and funniest discovery I think I’ve ever made. And of course proves that this fear of the sound thunder stems from primitive instinct–a warning signal to seek shelter from the storm and its many dangers. Interestingly, they say the bathtub is the safest spot to seek during tornado warnings etc. That’s what my mom says anyway, to which her husband cackles As if there’s a safe place to go during a tornado.
I’m supposed to be on a 4:00 plane to Miami tomorrow. I’m visiting my Brother & Company for a week and then attending my best friends Miami Bachelorette Party at the week’s end through labor day, braving ourselves amid the Zika hysteria. I’m in no shape physically to travel right now, but I’m hoping for divine intervention. For more than a week, I’ve been, what’s the phrase, temporarily out of commission. Technical difficulties. Spaghetti brain, the usual Crash buffet. I’ve rested pretty continuously, changing couches and sides of the room one day, trying a different room the next, mixing it up as much as is possible right now. But I found myself really grateful that I’ve had the time and space to actually rest. I always recall my last few months of working full-time, when I felt this way daily. The added angst of knowing that on top of being sick and struggling to ease symptoms, I had to show up somewhere and be a functioning human being. Those were incredibly tough days, but I’m glad I had them. It swells my gratitude now that I don’t have to push through the pain, fake a smile, tell people I’m fine when I’m half certain I’m about to croak. It’s a gift that I don’t have to live like that now, and I try to stay aware of it. I know that traveling to Miami and sleeping somewhere that isn’t home is going to take a lot out of me, annoyingly, because I always prided myself on being a low-maintenance traveler. I’m still able to sleep almost anywhere and don’t require a lot of amenities, except water for pills. But I don’t think I qualify as low-mainenance anymore. And there’s a price to pay in leaving home now, and that’s just part of the deal. “Vacations” are not relaxing things really. They can be fun, but make no mistake, they are always costly. It’s one of many things that, due to physical restraint, become depressingly large– no longer feel right-sized. Laundry. Packing. Putting bags into smaller bags. Prescription refills. Pharmacy lines. Pharmacy on-hold music. Lifting and carrying and dragging a portable box of your crap on wheels around.The normal stuff everyone endures. When you think of all the steps you’ve gone through by the time you’re sitting on an airplane seat, it’s a lot. It’s the same except for the burden it will bear later. An ongoing debt you have to pay, for a bunch of crap you don’t even want! Hah. Am I done complaining yet? Maybe.
I’m thinking of one of the largest culprits of exertional consumption: Airports. Like Vegas, it’s a surprising amount of walking. Standing. Waiting. Taking off and putting on shoes and jackets and giving the laptop its own bin and PLEASE MOVE OUT OF THE WAY MA’AM. It’s the meanest use of manners one will ever encounter. It’s a harsh environment in many respects. You enter this fluorescently lit void where you’ll live a little while, but only as a stop on your way somewhere else. Not so different from the no-name town interstate exit you take on a road-trip, strictly to use the bathroom and gas the car. It’s a blurred cross-section of time zones that feels almost just outside of actual time-keeping. You walk but it feels like you’re running. Down a transient track you go, walkrunning to your gate, (your exit) as bits of conversation and commerce and commotion are flying past you in quick succession, one second glances in the eyes of strangers, some of them feeling oddly familiar. So many incremental, rapid snapshots of all the others of the world. You forget they’re out there. They flash by at such a rapid pace, and then they’re gone. I always feel incredibly slow, almost standstill among them. Inevitably there’s the well dressed business man running full speed with his expensive roller suitcase in toe and his jacket flapping behind him. Excuse me!! He yells with importance. Yes move please thank you! Some people give him a dirty look, forgetting solidarity! We have all been that man running like an idiot to our gate. I must say the image always makes me smile. It’s the quintessential reminder you’re in an airport, because nowhere else are business people or women in nice clothes and heels running at that kind of speed. Thousands of people you’ll never see again.
A mighty few are novelty travelers, for whom the airport is filled with opportunity and new adventure, and the unique sights and sounds are exciting of going somewhere new! But sadly many more represent the disgruntled traveler, the jaded one, the one with 3 million frequent flyer miles. Like the teacher who has been teaching far too long, he’s too familiar with the height of inefficiency he’s about to face, the hoards of human stupidity he’ll have to wait on and wade through just so he can board a vessel where all the pieces and parts of utility and supposed comfort are screaming “I’M TOO SMALL!” Inevitably he’ll be seated by a yelling toddler being spoken to as though he were 40, all so he can experience the miracle of flying at 40,000 feet, a height repeated by the captain 2 too many times along with others “uhhhs” and stutters and unnecessary bits of information. Then the final descent, a wobbly landing to applauding passengers for God knows why, in Cincinnati freaking Ohio.
Personally, I love flying.
The sky has finally opened its mouth to a downpour. Monty has calmed, but he sees the open suitcase in the corner, and we’re both a little weary.
Health, Happiness, Seats Forward and Tray Tables up
Authors note: This was written ten days ago. Not that you care.