Freshly Painted and Right Down the Street from Utopia
An airport is a phenomenon, is a circus, is an other-world. Being trapped in one, recently,on a day many flights were cancelled, I marvelled at the slow denigration. People are shrunk to equals as if snowglobe dwellers, it seems, when no puff of the chest or threat to the ticket agent will guarantee a way to the comforts of home, though the woman with the situationally inappropriate and unexplainable leigh around her neck sticks her short fat arms out and squeals repeatedly like she is the only one stranded. The crowd of thirty to fifty something New Yorkers in the smoking area shake their greased heads at gold watches and threaten under their breath to “just rent a fucking cah.” One tells me, between drags of a Marlboro Ultra Light, that this is second day his flight’s been cancelled, then sighs with his hands up like fuck it, asks where I’m from. He’s sort of a creep, though more comical, with bits of something in his teeth, a painful shorts/socks combination, the sunglasses with a necklace-cord. There is a child crying behind the “Polly’s Cafe” concession stand; her mother wilting at the sight of a more wilting fruit-salad, perhaps about to cry herself, not listening to her daughter.
I settle for a flight the next day, though the agent offered weakly I could “..be on standy? On the..24..2..no, the 6-Linda?” and walks away to her supervisor mid-sentence. She shuffles back after ten minutes and it turns out no, no, nothing today.
A good friend picks me up, though we’d said our goodbyes earlier that morning, both our eyes bleary from the long night, which ended like all do. We did the quick goodbye thing, businesslike, a firm but brief hug, a kiss on the cheek, a second-long hand squeeze. We would not be seeing eachother for a while, but had forgotten, somehow, until that very minute.
So he picks me up and we laugh quietly (april fools, tricked you!) and get coffee in a city we don’t know well, but enjoy just fine, that he’s thinking about moving to. The windows are open, the beach rushes alongside us, trying to keep up, and we both nod and sing-along: this is not half bad at all. At the coffee shop we sit in the outdoor patio, the east wall of which features a few rather realistic paintings of theseold cowboy sort of guys, no background, facing eachother in conversation. The sort of guys who still carry a handkerchief, treat a woman with respect, have been buying their high-waisted pants the same place for twenty years. As he and I talk we get the feeling they’re listening just a little, grunting and nodding, like I know that one, that’s for damned sure pal. We have not been very happy, my friend and I, and we talk about it and say things we’ve been repeating to ourselves but not others for a while, probably.This makes these things true.
By the end of his espresso, my iced coffee, and three cigarettes, the old men painted on the wall who know all the things we’ve yet to learn are still muttering to themselves; we make big sighs but also laugh big, slap eachother’s knees and get the hell out of there.
Leaving the coffeeshop we pass one of the New Yorkers on his cell-phone and giggle into eachother’s shoulders–he is not in on the joke. We get back in the car, passing yellow houses covered in bougainvillea on the way, holding hands and glad for this stolen time. We thank the airway for fucking up. We thank the weather hazards in the northeast that kept the woman with the innapropriate leigh and the sweaty, unshaven New Yorkers away from their destinations.
We go to see the apartment he’s maybe looking at, park across the street and walk up. The smell of new paint on old walls is coming strongly from somewhere in the five stories, and the foyer is wooden, the stairs well worn and happily walked upon. There’s a restaurant three buildings away called “Utopia,” and we are amused at the possibility of living right down the street from Utopia, on the left hand side. He hopes it has not been rented and I hope so too.
Back in the car, we put on a song we both know well. “Great song,” we grin emphatically, for the five hundredth time, and think of the things we have been telling ourselves but not others, that today, we told each other; that today we made true.