Scheduled on the late shuttle home last night and waiting for my flight at the bar and drinking a beer or two, I realized how generally annoyed I was with the noise and the people and garish lighting and the incessant televisions–sports, Fox News, Shopping Network–and the elbow to elbow experience of drunk travelers shouting over pounding music and just wanting to be home in bed at that moment, quiet and maybe drifting off with the New Yorker in my hands. Perhaps it was everyone too drunk and consequently annoying, or perhaps was me working in that direction but not yet there that everything and everyone seemed so very hyperbolic and frenetic.
The woman to my right leaned into me and asked the time. I looked at her and told her the time and her eyes, which I recall black like I understand Picasso’s eyes black, bore through me and out the back of my skull and in that instant I was reduced to something far from manhood and turned quickly away and back to my book, feeling very and profoundly inadequate, and for some reason embarrassed, to be entirely truthful. She turned from me, sensing I’m sure my instantaneous shortcomings, and to the gentleman at her right, asking a question of him and their ensuing din of politics and pop culture and business and law and travel washed over me, fixing my already stained mood.
The man to my left, a lawyer, I overhead him say, was reading his best friend’s manuscript, a novel, as he reported to the traveler on his left. This piqued my interest but not so much as to disrupt my mood of contemplative dissatisfaction, so I let it lay, as he let the manuscript lay. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that he was on page sixteen.
I fly this shuttle, Portland to Baltimore, every four or five weeks, a day trip, early morning, late night flights, and because of that cumulative mileage I frequently, as I did last night, get bumped up to business class where the drinks are free. This can be a challenge as the temptation of free alcohol is something I find particularly cruel. After my second Jack I was reminded of Hemingway’s admonition to compose drunk and edit sober.
My dismissive mood lifted as we flew over Manhattan and the luminescense of that island broken only by the black rectangle of Olmsted’s park, a perfect void extinguishing the light. A lovely sight indeed on a clean night and a reminder to always sit fuselage left when returning home.
And alas, the script, “Welcome Home,” suspended in the jetway claiming all challenges acceptable and filling me again with grace.