Sunday, February 19, 2017

On the Highlight Reel

If someone was to ask you what's on your highlight reel, what would it include? 

That first home run that flew over right field would be on mine. My first kiss with someone that I'd kiss again today even though the first time was a bit rough. Reading the personalized letter from Dr. Sachsman and the chills his words gave me after receiving a 100% on my senior thesis final. The moment I found out I was having a little girl. The heartbreak I experienced in 2016. Sprinting through the Chicago airport missing my flight home by three minutes. The highs and lows and a few in betweens would all be sprinkled throughout. 

What feels so good about my highlight reel is that it just got so much more colorful.

I've been needing to finish up this project of mine for a while. But it never felt finished. It didn't have an outline that I was completely confident in yet. Now it does. It loops around from February 5th to February 5th and in a perfect, Grace-filled dream world it stays that way all the way through my hypothetical publication. You'll read about the day. You'll read about the 9 years before but you'll finish with that run to gate F9 when I realized that the puzzle pieces to my life were meant to be put inside a book. These things are just too coincidental. I flew across the globe and met people who connected with my story. I sat next to a woman on an airplane from a completely different country and within the first hour of chatting realized that she is in the same position I was a year ago. That couldn't be just mere irony. That's fate. That's a kick in the ass to get this book done and take the leap.

Here's a few snippets inside the trip that ended it all.

***

Finally my bag came around the carousel. I grabbed it, unhooked the handle and quickly realized that one of the wheels had broken. I wasn't surprised. In fact I would have been more surprised if everything had gone smoothly from start to finish. 

I swung my camera bag back over my shoulder and then awkwardly tried to pull all the pieces of my hair out from under my strap. I lost a few as Christine, my middle seat buddy for the 14-hour flight, giggled at me and said goodbye. Once situated, I waddled over to customs, turned in my paper and went through the exit gate.

It was louder in there and if I didn't watch the floor too carefully I would tumble down the incline. But I was scanning the crowd trying to find her. Thankfully, she's tall. It wasn't her height that I noticed first though. It was that big, goofy grin. Then I noticed the sign, "Fleming. AKA Carrie Bradshaw. Welcome to Australia," she had scribbled inside a notebook last minute.

This was the same mysterious girl that commented on my crimped hair in middle school. We had never eaten lunch together. We had never had a class together. It wasn't until high school did we even become friends. It wasn't until I was 23 that we became best friends. But this woman, she grew up in the same small town with me, around the same people and the same ideas and the same societal norms pounded into our heads for as long as we could remember. And now we were together, living seventeen hours in the future from our families and over nine thousand miles away from our homes. It was a bizarre reflection. It was exciting.

She was bouncing up and down a bit but she couldn't go over the barrier. I hustled over to her. Once I passed the red line, we hugged and my emotions and sleepy eyes collapsed. She grabbed my bag and scooted me over to the coffee bar nearby. The sandwiches and pastries looked delicious. French breads stuffed with savory meat and cheeses. Cheesecake bites with all of the trimmings, everything looked artistic and yummy. But my stomach was still reeling from the salt-infused breakfast potatoes and odd omelet they had just served me on the plane. I skipped the treats and went with a bottle of water. She snagged me a butter croissant though, eventually I'd down that on the train ride home.

***

Our first mistake was eating a full breakfast before arriving at tea time. I had never had eggs benedict before so I decided to try it, making sure they made the bacon extra crispy. We both cleaned our plates and sipped on coffee and jungle juice - freshly pressed watermelon, date, pear and berry fruits. We didn't expect to be served three-tiers of desserts and lunch options directly after though. We were in it for the sparkling Australian wine and peach tea. But when in Rome ... or, Australia.

We were causing a scene. Everyone was poised and talking calmly in the corners of The Palace Tea Room. But the hostess decided to stick the two Americans in the center of it all with our cackling laughs and cheesy smiles. We tried nearly thirty times and with two different waiters to get good photos of us cheering to a clean slate and a new year. The angles were bad, the dresses were insulting our decent (yet distended from all of the food) figures and we were starting to sweat from all of the stares.


***

By the end of the afternoon I had shed a few tears over our wine and pastries. We had both gotten to hear out thoughts and worries the other one didn't necessarily want to have said out loud. But that conversation was something we needed. It also solidified our friendship even more, if me flying across the entire planet to see her didn't prove that then this moment definitely did. We can talk about the tough stuff. We can be honest with each other and know the other one isn't going to leave. There's security in our relationship and we walked to the movie theatre with a bubbling stomachache and an even stronger bond.

While I was living my worst nightmare in the very public, unisex bathroom at Events Cinema, she was in line grabbing us popcorn. Because continuously eating for six hours straight was on both of our bucket lists.

***

I stepped on something sharp. But all I could imagine was Claire yelling, "Mommy," from afar and just how quickly I wanted to have those little arms of hers wrap around my neck. I was going to make it. I didn't want to be stranded here smelling like an airplane toilet with a hole in my underwear for 180 more minutes. I was creeping up to 30 hours of travel at this point and I'd had enough. And now my throat was hurting because I couldn't run and breathe at the same time. Instead I was gasping for air at every turn yelling, "Excuse me," to all of nthe couples holding hands in front of me and blocking my way.  

I eventually found F9 only to be greeted with a Detroit departure. The gate they told me was wrong. But the plane pulling out of the F11 terminal was leaving. And Nashville was flashing on the gate's screen. I grabbed a man that looked like he may be working. He seemed professional enough. There was a logo or something on his black jacket.

"How do I get on that plane," I asked completely winded.

"You can't. It's as good as gone miss," he replied and promptly walked away.

I poured myself into a seat by a very large man that smelled like pipe tobacco and sobbed. I was overly emotional because I was overly tired. I allowed myself five minutes of tears before I marched to the restroom to brush my hair, brush my teeth and slap on some lipstick. I'd walk past the security guards defeated, even after their cheers, but at least looking a bit more put together. The blonde one was rather handsome.
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