Sunday, December 6, 2009

Reflections from Week One

September 10, 2008

Late afternoon light pours through the windows and soaks the cold, dark countertop at the check-in counter, which I’m hunched over. I’m numb while examining the hundreds of restless travelers lined up behind me. The cracked tip of my elbow cuts the plastic countertop; it supports the weight of my fatigued head, which lies frozen in my trembling left hand. A throbbing comes from my left hip and knee and rides up my spine, and I realize I’ve been forcing all my weight onto one side of my body for the entire ten minutes that I’ve been standing here. I place my right foot back onto the floor, transferring my 120 pounds, and I take a breath as sharp as a razor. Blood rushes to my head and I’m lost. I’m too lost to be mad, and too sad to cry. My eyes fill with waterless emotion, and I imagine how they must look to the large, black man positioned on the other side of the counter. I stare up at him, begging, silent. He is frosty and insensitive, and his fingers zip across the keys at a discomforting tempo. I forget to breathe and then I remember to breathe. And it hurts.

I grip a small duffel bag, which is packed delicately with just one week’s supply of clothing. It’s August, and no one told me about the wintry San Francisco weather when I decided to journey to the Bay Area for a quick visit, so the bag contains shorts and tank tops and sleeveless summer dresses. I’ve been freezing for a week. And now I’ll be freezing for another long while, because my airline ticket has been denied. I’m supposed to go back home to Oregon today. I’ve made so many trips to and from Portland and San Francisco this month (foolishly hoping to secure a job during an economic recession) that I can’t keep track of which airport I’m supposed to be at and which plane I’m scheduled to be on and when. I don’t understand why I’m denied this flight, though, because I paid $430 for the ticket just last week. The proof is on my credit card statement. I am opening a new credit card to transfer the balance from my current one, which I’ve maxed out, thanks to the exorbitant cost of airfare. I don't even have a job to pay it off.

I miss my family. I don’t want to move. I want to stay at home where Mom cooks and laughs at my jokes and Dad sits barefooted on the back patio with me until twilight, reading and doing crosswords and chatting about our upcoming vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey and the new flowers he and Mom planted yesterday. In the backyard, all I hear is the hum of our small, manmade waterfall. It’s the soundtrack to my thoughts – my considerations, my inspirations – which are loud and clear even though they mingle with Dad’s discourse. But in San Francisco, my peaceful yet productive reflections are hushed by the worry of not being able to get a job or pay my credit card bill or get on a plane or come home.

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