Dear Tim,

Almost missed my flight to Portland. Woke up at 730 in the morning, triple-checked Benjamin's flat for forgotten items, lugged/dragged my much-too-heavy suitcase down an interminable number of steps, exerting my flesh upwards while suitcase, commissioned by gravity, attempted to dislocate my arms from my body.

Crammed into a tram with squashed and sleep-eyed morning commuters, I thinking it too early to be physically intimate. Grouchy lady shoved my backpack to fit into tram before doors closed, her hair smelling of tabac and her face fraudulent youth. I turn 23 in under a month.

(When I am angry and my face contorts, does my anger produce my face, or does my face produce my anger? If I smoothen my face, do I also smoothen my anger?)

Arrived at airport with 90 minutes to check bags, pass passport check, pass security. A line to check bags? No problem, bit my nails, tried to repress near-future lines to focus on the one in which I stood. Checked bags and went outside to kill the rest of my Villeneuve-d'Ascq weed. Elderly black lady gave me a corner look. Went back inside and thinking lighters not allowed past security, tried to give away my 1-euro butterfly lighter bought at a thrift shop in Arezzo. Eventually offered it to an idle, smoker-type flight attendant who laughed. 'Landing and not being able to smoke? Keep it.'

Two lines later, 15 minutes left, my plane has already begun boarding, no problem, heart pounding only halfheartedly, just going to put my bags and trays thru x-ray and will be sitting on plane and relaxing. He asks to see my boarding pass. Yes, yes, boarding pass, where is my boarding pass, let's see. He crosses his arms. Well, uh, I must have left it in—I disembowel my pockets: wallet, phone, headphones, tissue, tissue—sir, if you don't have a boarding pass I'm going to have to ask you to step ov—here it is!

Hard part over, now I just grab my bags. I see them, emerging from those plastic curtains like Grendel emerging from his swamp, and a security person moves my grey bag away from me to be personally inspected.

Now my blood pressure shoots up and I stand behind two other people waiting to have their bags inspected and I wave my flight ticket at someone professional-looking who tells me forlornly that there is nothing I can do but wait, which I do. Unfortunately the man in front of us, a captain or officer type has brought half a refrigerator in his suitcase, each food item requiring individual scan and inspection.

5 minutes left, I am snappy with my inspector who snaps back and tells me she is just trying to do her job, and I shut up and fidget like someone who needs to pee and—‘ok, take it.’

I cram everything into my bag and bolt upstairs, only to find out that my gate is on the opposite end of the terminal, so I jog, but my muscles begin to falter and blood is throbbing and shoulders are slipping off body so I decelerate to a rapid walk and a flight attendant runs toward me: Jonathan?

Yes me Jonathan yes it is me!

You should hurry, or your flight will leave—

And he is far behind me: I am sprinting. I pass by another attendant who shakes his head pityingly and says pitilessly, yes, they are waiting for you, though I don't think you will make it...

And he too is far behind me, his words are wings for my shoes and I can't breathe and I can’t breathe and they clap and I wave my ticket like an officer waves his badge and I’m in, I’m in, I’m seated, I’m in the air, I’m in the air, I’m in the air


Won Lee is a Corean-American poet and MFA student at the University of Oregon. His writing has previously appeared in Action, Spectacle.

Categories: Airports, Security, Trips

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