I Am the Passenger

Flight: it’s such an equalizer. Whether it's LAX or LaGuardia, Hartsfield-Jackson or Sea-Tac: we're all the same when we're waiting, we're all passengers. Books, notepads, iPods, our little distractions when we fly together. The airplane is our mother with a rhythmic thrum, rocking us, lulling us to drowsy daydreams. A gentle ding tells us when it’s safe to move in the cabin; captains speak through a scarf of static to tell us the weather and time when we land. There is a mild hiss of the air rushing back into the plane as passengers with umbrellas and carry-ons disembark to be born into the streets. Tickets not just to ride, but to freedom, to fun, to the jobs where we draw paychecks, to vacations and bars and people and lights. They are on vacation, or they are home.  

The airport at night is a waking dream, full of layovers and missed flights, all manner of luggage, trinkets and magnets and boarding passes, weak coffee and plastic wrapped snacks. It is full of strangers on their way home or to places that they miss or want to visit, places that work has sent them or to the friends who have travelled far. Strangers: the tearful goodbyes of a young couple in love and a well-dressed woman crying into her cell phone, getting bad news in a friendless port of transit. Another stranger: full of arms as Vishnu; even in a place full of the unfamiliar and the temporary, you are not alone.

Cityscapes, states, and time zones travelled; sleeping on flights and airport chairs during layovers. Others stay awake because it's pointless not to—you might miss your connection, you’re going to be jet-lagged anyway. Sallow-skinned and greasy-haired travelers, strangers strung out on sleeplessness, wired on caffeine, smokers searching wild-eyed and shaky-handed for the welcoming fishbowl of a smoker's lounge, such a rarity these days. I have passed through their ports, incubated inside the wombs of these steel mothers and been birthed out again from shore to shore. I have watched the sun rise over two oceans from the porthole window of an airplane; I have seen the sparkling labyrinth of city lights from thousands of feet above them, setting down on two opposing coasts. The fluidity of aerodynamics has made me gigantic, a titan, spanning a continent in a weekend.

In these harbors, we are strange sailors when we gather. What makes us all epic is the flight, the riding, the kinesis as we travel towards the lights, the sun, the cities, the coasts. The thing that keeps me human is the sad eyes of a stranger on my shoulder, the way a place of anonymity and solitude merges with the leaving of a coast. We take the tram to the next concourse, where she collects her black suitcase, marked by the little strip of yellow cloth she’s tied to the handle to make it stand out from all the other black suitcases riding the brushed chrome of the luggage carrel. I buy another cup of overpriced, watered-down coffee, waiting for the flight that will ferry me back home. I thank her nameless eyes from the carpeted expanse of concourse B, waiting for seating to begin on my flight. I am the passenger; I am only here for the ride.


Allie Marini Batts is an alumna of New College of Florida, which means she can explain deconstruction, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines that her family hasn't heard of. She is pursuing her MFA at Antioch University Los Angeles.

Categories: Airports, Airplanes

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