Essays from an Adventure, Part 5: The Monk and the Golf Cart

Submitted by Mary on Fri, 05/11/2018 - 14:06

It was a strange sensation when the plane dropped back down through the clouds and I found myself staring down at Chicago through a torrential rain. It was such a shock when only seconds before I had been staring so raptly at the realization of my childhood imaginings, and I realized that this must be what it felt like to come back from Narnia.
Now I was faced with the prospect of landing. From what I had seen in the movies, it was always pretty dramatic…but then, when planes landed in the movies there had usually been a lot more drama throughout the whole flight, too. As far as I knew, there hadn’t been any violent deaths, outbreaks of plague, or hijacking attempts on this flight, so I supposed the landing should be okay.
Still, I braced myself. And it was a good thing, too, because the first touch of the wheels on the tarmac shook us around quite a bit.
“Well, that was a lot better than I expected the landing to be,” I remarked to Amanda.
“Really?” she said. “I thought it was super rough.”
I shrugged. That showed what I knew, but at least that meant I could expect other landings to be smoother.
Our plane slowly made its way to the gate, and slowly emptied. We shouldered our backpacks and moved with the current back out the way we had come, and down a long, freezing cold tunnel. My feet had last touched solid ground in the tiny, quiet, pasture-surrounded Springfield airport. I now found myself in the midst of O’Hare.
It wasn’t the number of people that gave me pause—it was the incredible diversity of them. As we made our way to the security gate for our international flight, we were passed by a group of tall, slender black women in vibrant headdresses, who spoke to each other with strong, throaty voices in a language I couldn’t identify. A family scurried past, talking hastily in Chinese. When we reached the line for security, we were next to a man with a shaved head who wore a bright orange robe, sandals, and a long string of beads around his neck.
A Buddhist monk. I’d read about them, and I’d seen pictures, but here was one in the flesh, right in front of me. I tried not to stare, but it was hard to resist, because somehow that man had made something click in my mind. Maybe it was his obvious connection to a culture—to an entire world—so very different from mine. Maybe it was the way he quietly moved through the line on his way to his own flight, on his way to a completely different destination than the one I was heading for. Maybe it was a sudden sense of wonder at the fact that I—a farm girl from the Ozarks—would somehow cross paths with a Buddhist monk from—where? Nepal? Thailand?—in a Chicago airport.
Whatever it was, I decided that despite the crowdedness, the noise, the much tighter security, and the sheer enormity of the place, I loved international airports. The feeling of magic and adventure and excitement that lived there was unlike any place I had ever experienced.
When we finally reached our gate, we still had almost two hours until our flight. Out the window, I could see a scissor lift raising a shipping container marked with what looked like a caterer’s logo, up to the side of an enormous 747 emblazoned “British Airways”.
Whoa…British Airways. Was this real?
I glanced down at the ticket bookmarking the passport in my hand. “World Traveler: Chicago to London” it said.
This was real. I’d heard British Airways mentioned, read the name here and there…but now I was actually going to be a passenger. I was going to the other side of the world.
It was almost too much to process, and I didn’t know how to cope, so I tried to think about something else. I found an outlet and plugged in my phone to top off the battery. Why, I didn’t know. It wouldn’t work overseas and I couldn’t use it on the flight, anyway. But whatever. It was something to do.
Amanda pulled a deck of cards out of her backpack and we sat down on the floor to play a game and pass the time.
A pair of security guards drove past us in what looked like a golf cart. They slowed as they passed us, both of them glaring at us suspiciously. I shrugged it off…the first time.
Later they drove past us a second time…and later a third time…and repeated the routine: slowing down, glaring as they passed. I considered turning my cards towards them to prove I wasn’t cheating, in case that was what they were worried about.
Eventually, other passengers began to congregate at our gate. We put the cards away, and I texted Aaron to tell him we were going to be boarding soon. He called me a few seconds later for one last goodbye and I love you. By now I was getting excited—I was excited to get up above the clouds again, if nothing else!—but that excitement was at odds with how I felt talking to Aaron, knowing it was the last time I would hear his voice for eleven days.
He asked if I was excited and I assured him I was, even though I knew he could hear the tears I was swallowing. He told me again and again that he loved me and was so happy for me, and that I was going to have an amazing time and I would be back before I knew it.
The first boarding group was called. I could hear Aaron smiling as he told me once again to go and have an amazing adventure and that he would see me soon and he loved me. My voice broke as I said one last I love you and goodbye. My hands shook as I ended the call and clutched the phone to my chest. I held my breath and clenched my teeth until the sob straining in my chest subsided.
"It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay," I told myself. Over the years I’ve developed a habit of internally coaching myself through hard situations. "You’re okay, and you can do this. Now, you’re going to stand up straight, you’re going to take a deep breath, and you’re going to put your phone away in your backpack. And then you’re going to get on that plane."
So I did. I stood up straight, took a deep breath, put away my phone, shouldered my backpack, and I got on that plane.

Author's age when written


I loved reading this part of your adventures. My two favorite parts were where you made the comparison of coming to land with returning to our world from Narnia. And the second was here:

I considered turning my cards towards them to prove I wasn’t cheating, in case that was what they were worried about.

This was droll and understandable at the same time, and I loved how you worded it! ;)