April 2nd, 2014
I check the clock for the 15th time in the last hour. As long as we don’t make any wrong turns we should be fine. There’s no point in worry so I try to enjoy the last bit of conversation with a friend I will not see in a long time. I was in this very truck a few months ago racing the clock but for the sake of a sick dog. Here we are united again, nobody sick this time, just me on my way to say good-bye. Lucho, back in good health, is curled up on my lap while Vince drives the cold wet Colorado highway towards the airport. This dingy truck feels small next to the big rigs spraying fountains of water from either side of them. We see because of signs that we are approaching Denver international and I am somewhat relieved.
The airport entrance greets us with an eerie statue whose purpose I can’t guess at. A massive horse glowing a faint blue reared on his hind legs with piercing red eyes gleaming in the night. Denver locals have nick named it the “Devil Horse” and I can see why. With rain falling on it from ominous dark clouds above, the scene gives me an unnerving feeling as we enter the airport grounds, still miles away from the actual airport.
Vince notices that I’m staring at this creepy creature and tells me that the man who designed and built the horse was literally killed by it. Supposedly while working on it one day it accidentally toppled over and crushed him to death. He goes on to talk about all the folklore and myth associated with the airport. Many believe that the illuminati have a system of bunkers underground for when any potential war or disaster hits. I’m very skeptical when it comes to conspiracy theories but my fantasy-loving mind gets lost in the system of underground tunnels and shelters built by a powerful secret society that runs the world behind stage.
My imagination is interrupted by the notice of snowflakes falling. As we approach the actual terminals I take in the sight of the airport I arrived at days ago under a new light; massive modern buildings with white circus tent roofing behind a whirlwind of snow flakes, distracting the average passenger from the mysteries that lie beneath. I’m surprised by the lack of bustle that is usually found in any airport and question if we could be in the right area. We arrive at the designated stop for the airline I’m taking and I hesitantly get out. Checking the time once more I realize there is no room for hesitation so I say good-bye to Vince and Lucho and start running. The check-in lines are completely empty save the one employee alone at the desk. He tells me I’m late but can still make it.
A few minutes later I’m running down an empty hallway. A tall wall of clean glass on my left reflects a semi transparent image of myself against the background of darkness outside. I surprise myself how different I look compared to two weeks ago when I was clean-cut, shaven, in summer clothing. Now dirty, with facial hair, filthy shoes, a backpack with a sleeping bag bungeed to it, swinging with every pace, I’m bundled up in some kind of plaid fake wool jacket given to me by a friend here, most likely stolen from a thrift store. I realize I look like the people I’ve been spending my last few days with without intending to.
I come to the end of the lone hallway of reflection under bright florescence and find myself in a large room with tall ceilings, shops, flat escalators and cold tiled flooring. I follow the handful of people scattered throughout the indoor miniature town all heading in the same direction of the airtrain. I make it down a couple sets of escalators to the large waiting room where the airport train will take me to the final departure gate.
Tall walls of glass and white tile, thin hard carpeting, massive metallic poles supporting the structure around me, screens displaying flight times, not a sign of the natural world. I think back to a view I took in a week ago which was opposite of this in every respect…
. . .
Flat semi-arid lands for miles and miles that try to make it to the horizon but whose path is blocked by towering distant mountains. The scattered shrubs over the sandy and rocky flat terrain would be uniform if not for the few dirt roads that go on as far as the eye can see, seeming to lead nowhere. Less than a handful of settlements consisting of a small cabin and a truck or two pop into view here and there as the eye follows the roads. A few clouds decorate the mostly clear skies in the north and east as heavy dark clouds carrying snow loom from the southwest.
The chilling wind is blowing ruthlessly upon my face and hands, the only exposed skin on my body. They’re coming from the direction of the stormy clouds, gaining speed across the flatlands and whipping up the lip of this large hill whose edge is providing this vantage point. It’s a trade-off of pain and beauty for only a few paces back from the edge there is virtually no wind, no need to clench all my muscles to restrain the bitter cold but also no view. I look around me to my more immediate view and see that the others have already retreated back to the wind-free zone behind the tree line. I take one last glance at the vast , barren and cold landscape which humans have somehow managed to inhabit with primitive technologies many years ago and turn back.
Ducking through the small shrubby trees I see the group dispersed close enough to be within talking distance from one another but doing their own thing. Mark and Mark are shooting a sling shot at a target of a tree stump, Lucho is running around freely exploring this new terrain while Vince watches him, Kit is scanning the ground with a couple of animal bones in her hand looking for more clues from the past while Becky sits quietly designing some rock patterns in the ground. Vince is the only person I know here, everyone else I met recently and am still trying to find my place in the social circle. Due to the nature of traveling I find myself in new social worlds often and it is always interesting to try to find my place within them.
The personality trait that I exhibit most in a new group always seems to depend on what roles have already been filled in that particular group. Sometimes I’m the comedic relief, sometimes I balance things out with a seriousness, sometimes I’m the teacher, the student, the leader, the follower… Those are oversimplified generalizations of roles of a social circle and it is always much more complex than just fitting into a predefined slot that completes the circle but it seems to more or less work that way. A few days earlier I was an overly outgoing and silly character at the restaurant I worked at in the presence of long time friends. Now I’m the timid observer who hardly offers anything to the conversation but listens with care. One of the Marks sees me standing off to the side, not quite knowing what to do with myself and offers to let me shoot some rocks with the slingshot. I feel relieved to not have to make an effort to initiate socializing. A few moments later the first snowflakes begin to land on top of our heads so we all continue on with the hike.
I stick toward the back of the group shooting rocks at tree branches while listening to this close group of old friends share stories among themselves about people they know and things they’ve done together. I’m grateful to occupy my mind with the slingshot and enjoy the scenery while temporarily not feeling the pressure of having to socialize. We’re heading back to the warm cabin which will be a relief on my body but I am not looking forward to the pressure of making conversation in an intimate setting. I would just like to be alone now and reflect on my life that is once again changing before my eyes. I think back to one year ago when I was camping up in these mountains on my motorcycle, freezing cold and lonely. I would have loved to have a warm cabin to stay in with a few cool people to converse with.
I allow myself for a brief moment to give into a thought that I know is pointless and can only do me harm; wishing to skip time and be back at the airport alone, on my way to a place with people I already know…
. . .
A light above the sliding glass doors starts to blink as the voice of a lady that doesn’t sound like she’s from anywhere announces that the airport train is approaching. I watch the driverless train futuristically glide by through the glass until it stops perfectly so that the sliding glass doors open exactly where the train doors do. I board with the handful of other late night travellers and find a seat.
I recognize a man making his way onto the train from earlier at the security checkpoint. I overheard him explaining to three different people, three different times that he left his phone in the taxi when he got dropped off here. A couple of people had suggested that he contact the taxi company which he ignored and kept going on about how it just dawned on him as the taxi driver was driving off and how much of a hassle it will be not having it, etc.. He seemed more interested in lamenting out loud to others.
As he steps in the train we make eye contact and I can see on his face that he is ready to tell my fresh set of ears about his phone. “Would you believe I left my phone in the taxi tonight!?” He looks at me , eager for an approval to rant on which I deny by saying very unenthusiastically ” I heard…” I’m thankful that he picks up on my disinterest and moves on, probably wishing he would have directed his story to someone more willing to listen and now since others on the train already heard is attempt with me, it would be too awkward to repeat it to anybody else. I feel a bit bad for being cold to the guy but I’m not in the mood to be a backboard for him to throw his complaints at. I’ve had my fair share of that these past days…
. . .
Natalie once again. I’ve been hearing about this girl all week and how horrible she is. I listen to a one hour venting session about her every day it seems. Just when I think it’s done a new friend comes along and they need the full briefing of all the drama that has ensued. This must be the 5th or 6th venting session I have attended not even knowing the girl in the first place. I’m here at Mark and Mark’s house with Vince and a few friends hanging out in the kitchen and Andrea just arrived so she needs to be filled in. Natalie’s portrait seems to worsen with each smearing brush stroke of another slanderous story after another offered by her friends.
From what I’ve observed, every friend within this circle seems to get this treatment to some degree or another, Natalie just seems to be the main course of the roast this week. I look around the kitchen table and only in the last few days since I’ve been here I have heard criticisms and complaints behind the back’s of almost each person sitting here at one time or another. Whatever friend happens to not be there gets the critical tough loving treatment of the group.
If all the dirt has been scraped from the bottom of someone’s barrel the group will quickly move on to government, our culture, cops, rich people, religious people, rules, cars, lame ass people, people who think they’re cool, thugs, wannabes, punks that are too extreme, punks that aren’t punk enough but call themselves punk, preservatives, prices, employers, employees, T.V., technology, wack taggers etc.. It somehow makes me feel that I am some overly optimistic naïve do-gooder because I don’t partake in the group complaining sessions that seem to be a staple of conversation.
While a lot of these complaint release sessions open me up to the negative aspects of various things, just listening takes an emotional toll on me. Maybe it is selfish to ignore the negative going on around me for the sake of feeling good but there must be some kind of healthy medium that is different for different types of personalities and backgrounds. Despite the imbalance I feel being here, I seem to connect well with each person when we are one on one and have more power to deviate from the usual topic of bashing. I don’t do well adding in to the conversations of strongly opinionated passionate grievances that I don’t identify with.
. . .
I look over at the phoneless man, now sitting down further down the train and realize that my actions are reflective of the group in the kitchen. I’m complaining about and criticizing this guy in my head to the point where I’m blocking him out of my world. Maybe my happy medium of critique and positivity has changed internally. Though maybe I even did this guy a favor by not adding fuel to his little flame burning away at his ability to be present and get over the phone. Just like my physical appearance, I’ve been rubbed off on for better or for worse. Either way, I realize that some sort of lesson I’ve subconsciously learned these last days is starting to poke its head out in hopes to be understood eventually by further reflection.
The lady from nowhere but who seems to be at every airport announces we’ve arrived. In a few minutes, I’m looking out of a small double paned plastic window into the snowstorm that Vince and Lucho are driving through right now. I hope that the little truck bearing my friend and his dog whom I both love makes it safely. I realize how much I miss them already as well as everyone else I’ve come to know.
The plane begins gaining speed and suddenly I’m disconnected from this place in an instant. Who knows when I’ll see these people again but I admit that I’m thankful to not have been able to fulfill my wish back on the hiking trail of skipping time, missing out on an experience new to my little world and whatever lessons have come from them.