Airport Reading

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Returning home from Colorado Springs after a week visiting my parents, I find myself, as do all Delta customers, regardless of where they fly from or to, in the Atlanta Airport. At Gate A15 on the fourth row of blue vinyl seats, I sit with two other young people awaiting our flight to Jacksonville, FL. I am excited to return home to the land where sunshine is interrupted only for the occasional hurricane, and never in winter. We are the youngest people on the flight, myself nearly 24, the British girl across from me in her red and navy blue plaid about 19 years old, the Indian boy with horn-rimmed glasses and a light smattering of acne to my left maybe 20 years old.

I am lost somewhere with the Navidson family in the cold, dark recesses of Mark Z. Danielewski’s literary labyrinth House of Leaves. On the flight from Colorado Springs to Atlanta, I worried that something hiding in the pages of House of Leaves would inexplicably tear open space and time, fantasy and reality, ripping them apart and sending the plane hurtling into a shadowed oblivion somewhere between Kansas and Oklahoma, midway between light and fury, right into the Twilight Zone. Debarking, of all places, in Atlanta, I still could not be sure a similar occurrence had not taken place.

Across from me, the girl reads Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut. I ask what she thinks of it. She replies that she’s never read Vonnegut. She’s no further into the Cradle than we three are rightfully out of our own cradles. I smile a little to think that in a hundred more pages she will discover the fearful possibility that our plane, carrying herself and said novel, could crash into the ocean and freeze the world’s water supply, plunging our planet into the next ice age, decimating the world’s population to next to nil. Beside me, the nebbish Indian sits deserted in the vast frozen tundra of Leo Tolstoy’s Collected Short Stories. Whether or not he fears fits of irrevocable melancholy seizing every soul on board our late ‘80s 757, I cannot say. Perhaps he is only reading the Russian because Tolstoy espoused non-violence as a means by which India may free itself of British colonialism, and on that count, was correct.

We readers and writers know the line between fiction and reality is as non-distinct as the ersatz smiles of our artificially genial flight attendants. Though, it would seem, the Transportation Security Administration is not so aware of this clouded boundary, for they have allowed we three to carry a trio of literary devices, powerful enough to decimate entire world-views, onto the concourse, where carrying more than three ounces of liquid or a pair of nail clippers would be seen as a threat upon the safety of all travelers, foreign and domestic. For all this fear, swarming, waiting to funnel down the jet bridge into our aged vessel, a kind of hope takes flight. For surrounding us, I marvel, sits a squadron of senior citizens, sucking down their respective cell phones, seeking some modicum of a signal. And I smile, because in all my life I have never felt half so hopeful for my generation.


Robby McChargue studies creative writing and theater at the University of North Florida. This is his first published piece.

Categories: Airports, Airplanes

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