Waiting at Airports

Submitted for Contest #50 in response to: Write a story about a proposal. ... view prompt

65 comments

Submitted on 07/12/2020

Categories: General

       Airports are a place devoid of time and existence. Life stops once you step onto the unloading curb, the thick smell of car exhaust and hot tarmac burning your nose. Flights can be as late as they want and you have no control. Drinking beer at 9 a.m. is totally acceptable, because time doesn’t matter at the airport. My 1800-calorie diet doesn’t exist within the airport walls, I eat a cheeseburger and a bag of Doritos. Everything that matters happens before, or after the airport.

           The first propitious rays of sunrise shine through the glass panels behind me, reflecting off the all-white floors. Like the sun reflecting off the ocean, millions of droplets acting as prisms on the surface on the water. Its reflected light is nearly blinding, my retinas overwhelmed. The gates at this terminal are arranged in a circle. There is something comforting about curved walls, the absence of 90-degree angles. I always wanted to live in a yurt in Mongolia, my own private circular dwelling. Its gentle sloping walls made from natural materials, nothing man-made. The roundness of it is designed to protect it from heavy winds. (The three little pigs should have used a yurt.) It’s also easily moved, good for nomads like me.

           Behind me the commercial airliners slowly begin maneuvering into place, ready to start their day. Men wearing reflector vests use their lighted batons to guide the luggage carts to the appropriate airplane. They always seem so jovial, joking around with each other and smiling, you can tell by their faces. It must be a fun job. The roar of the engines vibrates the windows. 

           As the sun rises further, it casts its rays on the large fish sculpture across from me, in the center of terminal. A rainbow of light reflects in every direction off the hundreds of pieces of broken glass that cover it. I always liked mosaics. I did my own for years, I found the monotony of it helped with my anxiety. Now I write stories instead. Art was like telling a whole novel in a single scene.

           Music plays in the background, subliminally pumping through our subconscious, a mix of classical and smooth jazz, made to ease the weary travelers and soften anxiety. And if it doesn’t, the bars are beginning to open. Several people are already waiting, sweating and fidgeting, outside the TGI Fridays. They raise the cage on the bar. A signal. Relief is coming.

           Sleepy children with bedhead, still in their pajamas, make their way through security, lagging behind their already exhausted parents. Some are screaming and some are still half asleep with their stuffed animals tucked under their arms. Their fathers motion towards the bar that just opened, the mothers shake their heads, ‘no.’

           I sit in a sea of empty seats as more people scramble through the automatic doors past the checkpoint. They lean against columns or hop on one foot as they pull their shoes back on, holding their tickets in their mouths as they fasten their belts. What an intimate thing to be shoeless with a bunch of strangers. They move faster now that they’ve lost their bulky luggage at the desk. Once their shoes are on they ebb past me as if being pulled by a current towards the gates. Suits dart past like minnows to check the TV monitors, and then off they go to find the nearest lounge to escape the noise, for a whiskey and free cheese. The once serene airport is now a flurry of activity.

           I see Andrea round the corner with two coffees. She smiles at me through the sea of people. She makes her way towards me, cutting through the schools of fish. She’s going against the current, like a salmon preparing to spawn, preserving its future. Less strong fish would go with the current, but not Andrea. She’s the only person I know who enjoys the airport as much as I do. We’d come on our days off if we could. We get here several hours before our flight just to enjoy the beautiful chaos.

           I remember the first time we took a trip together. I brought my Dachshund, Brody. Andrea acted as if it was perfectly normal to bring a dog on vacation. She didn't even scoff when I told her Brody was my emotional support weiner dog. They say weiner dogs have one person that they love, and if you’re not that person, you can screw. But Andrea opened the carrier and surprisingly Brody climbed out into her lap. An old man walked by and reached his hand out to pet Brody (without asking) and Brody snapped at his hand. The guy walked off cussing, saying something about euthanasia. Andrea told him to get lost (in no uncertain terms.) I looked at her and thought I could love this girl for a long time, maybe even forever.

           Then there was the Christmas Eve we spent the night in this airport. We were going to New York to see her family. But our flight was canceled due to a snowstorm. We made a bed out of our cable-knit sweaters in an empty corner and bought a blanket at a gift shop. We got food from every vendor and a bottle of wine and had our own little Christmas party, right there at the empty gate. She told me about how her Dad died and how she never got to say good-bye. And I told her how I always felt like I was a disappointment to my mother because I was gay.

           There was also the time our flight got canceled after a terrorist attack. That is a day that we, like everyone, will never forget. We sat at a bar watching the news with a bunch of strangers, trying to process what happened, comforting each other. A bond forged between all those strangers that day, and us.

            Andrea makes her way back and sits down across from me and pulls a donut out of a paper bag. “I got you this,” she says. (I didn’t ask for it but she knows I’d want it.) But she doesn’t look right to me, sort of pale, and nervous. She looks like she may throw up.

           “Are you alright?” I ask her.

           “I have something I want to tell you. I wanted to wait until we got there but I’m so nervous I feel like I just need to do it now,” she says.

           “What is it?” I ask. That old familiar feeling of panic washing over me.

         The light shone so brightly behind her it made her appear like a sort of holy-figure, which we both know, she’s definitely not. Words slipped out of her perfect heart-shaped mouth as she proposed, right there in the hard plastic chairs. I accept and we became a jetty in the current, a sea of faces swirling around us.

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65 comments

Spider Baby
20:22 Jul 12, 2020

I think the symbolic weight of depicting a person's life or monumental life moments within such a space like an airport--which is already symbolic of fluid movement and physical transition--is a damn near genius idea on your part as a writer. I particularly liked the paragraphs where the narrator described the sea of people as 'schools of fish and the lines about the emotional Weiner dog; it draws so much personality out of otherwise stagnant characters. I look forward to reading more of your writing, good job! :D -Brianna Jo♥

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Sarah Greenwood
20:55 Jul 12, 2020

Lol thanks Brianna Jo. What a nice review you made my day 😊

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16:35 Jul 16, 2020

The description made me feel like I was literally at the airport!. Great job

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Sarah Greenwood
17:31 Jul 16, 2020

Thanks Annie. So glad you liked it

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18:10 Jul 16, 2020

Your welcome

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Simone Layton
09:19 Jul 23, 2020

This is great writing. Well done!

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Sarah Greenwood
09:22 Jul 23, 2020

Thank you Simone!

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R. Tris
19:15 Jul 21, 2020

This story is really amezing. I was drawn into it. The details. Thats the word. I was able to imagine all the things. You are amezing.

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Sarah Greenwood
19:52 Jul 21, 2020

Thank you so much Sumit. You really made my day 😊

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Brittany Gillen
18:35 Jul 20, 2020

Sarah - I loved the descriptions in your story. I felt like I was at the airport, and it all felt very real and familiar. You did a brilliant job of bringing in all the senses. I could smell the car exhaust and was blinded by the early morning sunrise. Your first two paragraphs were fantastic. The reader gets such a great picture of your character from the way she views the world around her. Excellent moment in time.

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Sarah Greenwood
18:55 Jul 20, 2020

Thank you so much Brittany!

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Olivia Kuziel
23:08 Jul 19, 2020

What an amazing, well-written piece! I really felt like I was at the airport, and your descriptions were spot-on :) I especially liked the salmon metaphor and the part about the emotional support dog. Like Brianna Jo mentioned, I also think an airport is the perfect setting to depict such a monumental turning point in someone's life! You really are a gifted writer! In terms of constructive criticism, I do have a few suggested edits: Airports are places devoid of time and existence. Like the sun reflecting off the ocean, milli...

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Sarah Greenwood
00:49 Jul 20, 2020

Wow thanks for the great input Olivia. I really appreciate your time and thoughtful response. I will reread and make those edits! Thanks again 🙏🏼😊

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Olivia Kuziel
19:57 Jul 23, 2020

Anytime! :) I really enjoyed your piece!

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Dylan Thayer
21:47 Jul 19, 2020

I was blown away by the fact that you could make an airport sound so appealing. I like to leave constructive criticism, and (after spending several minutes looking for anything to critique) I think it could be interesting if you'd kept some more variation in your sentence length in the middle. Starting at the 7th paragraph and ending in the 10th paragraph the sentences become shorter and choppier, which makes it flow slightly less well. Again, I read this at least 3 times searching for anything to improve—I think it's amazing how you can ...

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Sarah Greenwood
22:33 Jul 19, 2020

Thank you so much Dylan. I’m always happy to hear criticism, so thank you for your very thoughtful input and attention. Let me reread and do some editing👍🏼

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Spirited Wings
14:32 Jul 19, 2020

I love the transition from the present to the future. It's a romantic, beautiful way of castrating a proposal in an airport. I adore the sentences "The first propitious rays of sunrise shine through the glass panels behind me, reflecting off the all-white floors. Like the sun reflecting off the ocean, millions of droplets acting as prisms on the surface on the water." You are very talented with words!

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Sarah Greenwood
16:48 Jul 19, 2020

Thank you so much Spirited Wings!

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Deborah Angevin
08:55 Jul 16, 2020

Loved the way you write the descriptions! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it, Sarah :) Would you mind checking my recent story out, "Orange-Coloured Sky"? Thank you!

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Sarah Greenwood
13:00 Jul 16, 2020

Thank you Deborah. Yes I’ll be over there shortly !

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Shivani Manocha
19:27 Jul 15, 2020

I loved this story. I loved the line "Everything that matters happens before, or after the airport". But more importantly, I felt that you wrote the story in a manner that reemphasized this statement without explicitly doing it. I mean, the story is not like typical proposal stories where you describe the setting and people in a certain way. You focused on describing the usual, minute details. So, just like the line I pointed out, as a reader, I wouldnt have expected it to be a proposal story (if I wasnt aware of the prompt). I dont know ...

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Sarah Greenwood
19:48 Jul 15, 2020

Thanks Shivani. I’m glad you liked it. Yes I know what you mean as that’s what I was going for. I’ll visit your page now 👍🏼

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Alexi Delavigne
02:10 Jul 15, 2020

I loved the detailed description of the airport, I felt like I was there observing it with her. Also a bit of a side not but my dog is nervous with strangers and has snapped at people who don’t respect his boundaries, and often they aren’t kind about it so I really related to that part and felt connected to both characters. Just a side thought. An all around great story, I loved it!

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Sarah Greenwood
02:14 Jul 15, 2020

Thank you so much Alexi. I’m so glad you liked it 😊

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Sarah Greenwood
10:13 Jul 15, 2020

And yes isn’t it annoying when someone tries to let your dog without asking 😡😡

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Rose Buckingham
23:19 Jul 14, 2020

Love the little points of detail you put in - the suits like minnows is my favourite!

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Sarah Greenwood
23:25 Jul 14, 2020

Thank you Rose!

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B H
15:44 Jul 14, 2020

This is the kind of story that just captures your heart. It was so perfectly described. It put a smile on my face. Just beautiful.

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Sarah Greenwood
16:20 Jul 14, 2020

Thank you So much B.H. I’m so glad you liked it 😊

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Jonathan Blaauw
09:05 Jul 14, 2020

I love what you've done here! It's like when comedians make observations and they're funny because they're true but have just never been put into words before? Same thing here - the way you describe airports is brilliant because it's so, so true! I've never thought about it like that before, but you're 100% dead-on. Also the shoe intimacy thing. So relatable and expertly put. And then what you've done with the salmon metaphor, going against the tide etc, very clever. As a reader, I loved reading it but as a writer, I enjoyed it even more ...

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Sarah Greenwood
23:23 Jul 16, 2020

Thank you so much Jonathan. You really made my day. And yes, yurts are where it’s at!

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Christine Casey
01:05 Jul 14, 2020

lovely story. Great, vivid descriptions

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Sarah Greenwood
01:45 Jul 14, 2020

Thank you Christine!

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Aubrey Maria ✌
17:07 Jul 13, 2020

I love how descriptive you wrote!

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Sarah Greenwood
18:40 Jul 13, 2020

Thank you Aubrey!

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Anna Chidiac
16:05 Jul 13, 2020

You really captured the atmosphere of airports. Great backdrop for a proposal. ^_^

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Sarah Greenwood
18:39 Jul 13, 2020

Thanks Anna! I’m so glad you liked it

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Laura Clark
11:30 Jul 13, 2020

This. Is. Beautiful. I feel like you deserve more than that but that’s the essence of what I want to write. The line about the three little pigs made me smile in amongst the beauty of the scene you’re describing. There are so many great lines - the intimacy of being shoeless with strangers; anything yurt related; the wiener dog parts. You’ve used your name, too - is this autobiographical? One punctuation point you may want to edit - the comma between pale and nervous and she looks like she may be sick should be a full stop or sem...

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Sarah Greenwood
12:34 Jul 13, 2020

Hi Laura. Thank you so much for your very thoughtful reply. I always look forward to your input 😊 I kept the ending like that on purpose, but let me play around with it. I get that a lot, that people feel cheated by my endings ha. Let me see what I can come up with. Thank you again so much. You made my day 😊😊

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Laura Clark
12:45 Jul 13, 2020

I’ve read this twice now, just to enjoy it. Let me know if you change the ending so I can come back around for a third read!

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Sarah Greenwood
12:47 Jul 13, 2020

Lol ok will do

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Deidra Lovegren
08:43 Jul 13, 2020

You had me at “yurt” :)

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Sarah Greenwood
08:58 Jul 13, 2020

Lol any time I can sneak a yurt into a story it’s a good day 😊

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Christina Hall
04:41 Jul 13, 2020

The ending was sweet, but it was the language used and the flow of how you described what should have been the mundane details of an airport that caught and kept my attention. You are gifted.

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Sarah Greenwood
08:32 Jul 13, 2020

Wow thank you so much Christina. Comments like that are better than winning any prize. 😊

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