I have a strong conviction one should never sleep the night before a big trip, especially if said trip begins before the sun rises. No good journey is ever packed well for ahead a time, and there's no real satisfaction of excitement if you're running screaming out the door with at least two things left behind and something not yet zipped up.
This is, actually, a horrid exaggeration on my part. Any situation where two things have been left behind usually reduces me to the temperament of a child, and it is one of my baser instincts to shut down and throw a fit when things don't go just so. This may be why, when trying to catch the earliest plane out of the mountainous tomb called West Virginia, I walked out to my mother's jeep balancing my laptop one-handed like a waitress at an internet cafe [if there was such a thing], and wishing to god that seven gigabytes of girl punk rock and anti-folk would download and sync just a little bit faster. The Xanax in my system was keeping me from panicking about it, but only just.
It was an incredibly bourgeois problem, of course, and not the only thing weighing on my mind. On the ride to the airport, as I did my best not to blind us in the plasmatic glow of my widescreen machine, my mother was also bringing me up to date on the condition of my step-father, who just hours before had been rushed to the hospital with numbness and various other things indicative of a heart condition. He was stable, and awake, and relatively okay now, and the doctors didn't know much of anything concerning what had went wrong beyond that, and the whole of the situation was enough to place a good bit of guilt and worry on a traveler.
Stress and I have fought my entire life -- and if this surprises anyone than you will excuse me if I feel a bit proud. Hiding the panic, at least by my summation, is a skill. Removing myself completely from the day-to-day disasters and creeping anxiety is a near impossibility, but one that I felt this new opportunity would afford me, and selfishly I feared that before ever getting on the plane, something serious would arise to halt my escape.
But I have moved too far ahead of myself. First, some back story. Almost seven years ago I started at Bennington College in Vermont, a liberal arts school which did nothing for my stress, but may just have turned me into something of a worthwhile person [will have to see on that one -- some will make the observation that quite the opposite has happened, and I am afraid we are not yet on a long enough timeline to say for sure]. But my first friend there, and the first person I met [and that it worked liked that is a testament either to him, or me] there was Ben Garner, a long-haired, hippie type who, at the time, was mostly looking for someone to talk about Pink Floyd to, and accompany him to Wal-Mart to purchase a copy of "Thriller."
He was a child of his passions, and I could respect that. And though over four years we wandered in and out of one another's lives, I left Bennington with one of those friends who you knew would be available in some capacity for the rest of your life -- assuming you were liberal with the term "available" and possibly, "life." When roughly a year ago, perhaps more, Ben contacted me and told me he had proposed to Sarah in Italy [a girl who, despite being several years behind us, had left the school when Ben and my class had graduated], I was surprised but happy for them, and hopeful to attend their upcoming nuptials in Cape Cod of all places, which were far away and placed on a calendar that, at the time, looked much different for me than it wound up being. And my failures aside, their wedding date still came, and I realized that I had a little money in my pocket from freelancing, and a suit that had been bought for the gauntlet of funerals I had run in the past year, and strong feeling that if everyone else said I could get out of town for five days, I might actually want to.
So, I was headed back to New England, refusing to quote a John Denver song [that wouldn't last, though it would be a different song]. I had been lucky, in a sense, that the bulk of my friends from school, my "old crew" as it were, of Sam, Hannah, and Julia, were also invited, and Julia's family had a place in Hull, just outside of Boston [by ferry], and only a couple hours away from the Cape. I barely remembered the house when we had stayed there before, but knew they had room, and were wonder hosts to just the kind of freeloader I was -- a gracious one. Everything seemed well and in place, and when I rolled out of the jeep with my luggage, my laptop put away and my iPod still not full, I had resolved that if this many things had worked out, then I would be damned if I was going to let some little family trifle that everyone else said was taken care of bother me.
Even if that meant hitting the bars in my layover destination very, very hard.
I guess, in a very simple way, that was the soul goal I had while I stood waiting at the security checkpoint [other than using the two hours I still had until take-off to finish off my mp3 player, so I might have something else to amuse myself with other than the pressurized pops of my ears] -- and as someone who had spent most of his life as a non-drinker, I found it made the entire experience somewhat more bearable. If only every situation where you stood there holding your coat, your belt, your shoes, and most specifically the waistband of your pants, pockets turned out, had the promise of a cocktail hour after, then travelers, convicts, and high school students might be an entirely happier bunch.
I gobbled up a greasy breakfast of the local specialty [we call it "Tudors" and if you survive it, you've really no reason to fear air travel], and while waiting, I rearranged a few things that had felt too hastily packed and realized with a strong sense of satisfaction that I was ready, or at least as ready as I could be. It was a strange feeling, disrupted only by the common worries of what I was leaving behind, and as I sat there, thinking about what was next, I found myself surprisingly calm. I wandered into a strange place, where assuming I stayed well-mannered and pleasant, kept myself witty and occasionally smiled, I would now be pushed and guided from place to place, despite any sort of condition I might have, be it mental, physical, or otherwise. Check the ticket, hand the money, say thank you, be cordial, take the drink, give up the plate, enjoy the coffee, mind the time, all of these things for the next five days would be handled, and all I had to do was look vaguely like I deserved to be there.
It was incredibly freeing, and set a nice tone for the coming days.