Although I’m surrounded by thousands of people at the Atlanta airport during a layover, it’s a lonely Fourth of July. I call Natalie, a girl I’ve known since I got my driver’s license, who I performed the sacred act of cunnilingus on for the first time the night before I jetted to Aruba for vacation a week ago. She doesn’t pick up. Finally touching her naked body after eight years left me with a gnawing bliss—that smiling euphoria where everything seems possible.
A storm system has overtaken the east coast and my layover has been extended. I sit, stand, and sulk for hours as the clock approaches midnight. Twice, within minutes of newly scheduled boarding times, the flight to Newark gets pushed back again. A different Delta employee walks through the aggravated crowd to the gate to make each of these announcements. I imagine they draw straws in the backroom for the job.
I call a friend who knows my history with Natalie, and tell him about the sacred act. Laughing, he asks if I really think such a thing is sacred. I laugh, too, say “I’ve had too much time in this damn airport to play with my thoughts, but I like the phrase, anyway. Maybe it was sacred though. It’s probably the only time it’ll ever happen.” The line goes quiet and he asks about my family.
The terminal hallways are a storm shelter: people sit on the floor, sleep, and stand impatiently with arms crossed, waiting in lines for coffee and other overpriced airport delicacies. I wait in one such line for a soggy roast beef sandwich that I devour at a table behind a strip of shops. I walk through the maze of bodies, stopping at a smoking room for desert: a cigarette breaks up time, like meals break the day into three.
When I arrived at Newark for my departing flight at four o’clock in the morning a week ago, I was brought out of my euphoric, cunnilingus-induced-stupor by a message from Natalie, the receiver of the sacred act. I smiled shamelessly while opening the text-message, discovering what can only be described as an essay. She explained how it had all happened so quickly, that she needed time, that she couldn’t do this right now.
I thought maybe she, like my friend, didn’t think the act was so sacred. How could it have happened quickly? Doesn’t knowing one another for nearly a decade make it slow? Her words brought me down from that 24-four hour elevated state of bliss that I had refused to believe was only temporary. But I’m thankful for that 24-four hour high. I told her, anyway, I’d be there in whatever capacity she wanted me. And so, waiting for my plane to take me to a home that I’m moving from in a few weeks’ time, I light a cigarette in a smoky smoking room and realize that time is the biggest burden of all, and that waiting is the sacred act.
Geoff Watkinson is working on an MFA in nonfiction at Old Dominion University, where he also teaches composition. Geoff is 25, lives in a pool house, and couldn’t be happier.