Nirvana at DTW

Tight leather boots click-clack down the concourse, my suitcase squeak-squeaking behind. Loaded like a pack animal, I squeeze through a herd of wanderers, cloaked and stranded, through Detroit Metro Airpot – DTW.

Tin-can jazz reverberates from the metal scaffolding, soaked by an impenetrable mass of wool, canvas and scarves. My eyes strain for the comforting glow of the departing flight listing. I finally spot it – a holy icon, surrounded by its pilgrims.  Worried looks etch their faces, revealing delays – common as the snowy, scuddy skies shine through the  windows.

Squirming through legs and luggage, my eyes scan the departures. Boston… Cleveland… Orlando… Pittsburgh! On time… Two hours to depart. Good. Transaction complete, I turn to leave. Scanning the flights one last time, other destinations catch my eye: Beijing… Mexico City… Paris… Seoul… Tokyo… 

Images of unseen shores flutter before my eyes. Shouldering my laptop bag, I step away from the tantalizing images.

Relaxed, I begin my favorite airport hobby: people watching. So many, gathered together – neither here nor there. Where have they come from? Where are they going?

A young mother pleads with her inconsolable toddler outside Chili’s, while patrons drain another pint, pretending to not notice. Business owners and unemployed sit shoulder to shoulder by departure gates. Starry-eyed couples and their aged doppelgängers cross paths, one leaving, another returning.

Where have they come from? And where are they going?

Smelling toasted bagels in the air, I make a smart turn. We are all also suffering from poor airport food.

Paper-wrapped prize crinkling my hand, I sit back with my peanut butter and jelly and continue watching. Rush hour is nearing an end, with half the terminal heaving to make it to their flight on time.

Tearing off a chunk of stale bagel, I slowly chew. My mind goes back to those exotic departures. I glance across the corridor – gate A38. Tokyo, Japan. On-time departure. Another bite. The waiting seats are abandoned for the shoddy boarding queue, merging and overflowing into the crowded corridor. Parents pull children close, while students circle around a lone teacher, giving last-minute instructions before boarding.

Tourists and natives stand together, some sweaty-palmed, others weary-faced. Another couple, speaking in hushed tones, straighten their little girl’s jacket and backpack, neatly smattered in cheerful kanji and animal stickers.

A flock of strangers, convened for one 13-hour flight. For one destination.

As the passengers slowly file onto the jet, I think of the skies outside. Planes constantly landing and taking off, filled with people, coming and going. Here I am, at the crossroads of the world.

Settling back, my mind flitted across the globe, tracing it all to this moment.

And I felt as one with the universe.

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