Amsterdam Centraal, Spring 2012
The two of us race through Amsterdam Centraal in an attempt to catch the evening train to Uitgeest, zigzagging through the crowds and barreling over tulip stands, arriving in time to touch the just closed doors of the train car. My friend and I resign ourselves to a few more hours in Amsterdam without much fuss. As we leave the train station, I look back to see the electronic schedule wiped of information. Peak traffic comes an eerie halt.
Relatively unconcerned, the two of us take off for the most authentic Malaysian food we can find in the Northern Hemisphere. I don’t know, can’t know, that a high-speed train crushed the aforementioned commuter train, our train, like an accordion. As I’m living a bohemian, phone-less existence, I don’t know that the wreck is on the French news, sending my family and friends into a frenzy. I can’t know that it will take me two buses, a wait in a pub, an attempt at balancing on the back of a bike, and a lengthy walk to return to Uitgeest.
Instead, I’m concerned about my friendship. We are irritated with each other; best friends who sometimes push each other’s buttons. Our defenses break down somewhere between satay and green tea. We speak candidly about the challenges of living alone abroad. We talk about topics we’ve been avoiding, questions and fears we didn’t want to face, people we don’t want to lose. The interruption of my travel plans creates space that bridges the momentary interruption of a friendship, and the night ends with a long walk filled with laughter.
Baltimore Washington International Airport, Winter 2013
Shuffling through the airport exhausted, I stop for a highly caffeinated black tea in an attempt to forcibly prop my eyelids open. I sit with my bags in front of the gate, thinking that if I fall asleep, surely someone will jostle me as they get on the plane. The next sound I hear is the final slam of the plane door that reopens for no one. Panic ensues. I’m traveling solo, I’ve fallen asleep, and I have missed my flight across the country. With only late evening flights left in the day, I opt for an inconvenient flight that at least lands me in Texas.
A longtime friend rescues me from an uncomfortable night in the Houston airport. I stood by her as she married her husband six months ago, and I am their first, if unexpected, houseguest. The hyper vigilance and adrenaline that accompany me as I travel segues into an attention to and awareness of Meaghan’s hospitality. I remember the hand-crocheted afghan, the careful cultivation of her library, the squawk of her adopted pet bird. I find myself grateful at the chance to witness the beginning of the home they are building together.
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Winter 2015
After a long haul flight with my two sisters, the last obstacle between a warm shower and me is a one-hour flight from Dallas Fort Worth to the West Texas town I call home. The plane circles above the airport, and I can see the flat, dusty ground, strangely frosted. After 30 minutes of circling, the pilot announces it’s too icy to land. Low on fuel, we divert to San Angelo, to the bewilderment of the Chicago-based flight crew. After a tarmac wait with drafts of chilled recycled air, we return to DFW, nine hours of travel to nowhere.
We taxi to our grandparents, toting the grime and exhaustion that mark twenty-three hours of travel. My grandmother ushers us in. I would not have chosen to be here; courses to prep, an apartment to tidy, and an inbox to clean tug at me, but I turn to watch my little sister and my grandmother. My sister balancing the hand mixer to make meringue, my grandmother methodically slicing bananas, both of them artfully arranging Nilla Wafers in a green ceramic dish. While washing dishes, I spontaneously fling my sudsy arms around my grandmother. Later, I watch from the stairs as my grandfather pulls blankets toward the couch to make me a pallet. Something about this love and hospitality makes me want to weep.
Grace found me in the liminal space created in the wake of travel delays.