Airportal Encounter

Some Girls CoverMy flight should board in about forty minutes. I’m sitting on cold vinyl, reading a memoir about a young American girl who finds herself in a harem—a concubine to a prince in Southeast Asia.

A modern story.

She is giving him a blowjob (just like the one he has gotten from a thousand other women), he is indifferent, and it’s pissing me off. Why, oh why are we so desperate?

I can feel the gaze of the guy sitting across from me. He has scanned all the women and made his assessments. I wonder how I measure up. Who cares, jerk. All men suck. Except mine, of course. I got lucky.

Okay, wow, so that’s a little harsh. Holy Moley. I’m thinking it may be time to change my estrogen patch. I close my book.

Not many folks here yet, I guess they aren’t worried about missing their flight. Thirty minutes to boarding. I would check my email, but I left my cell phone at home. Time to pee and find gum. I gather up my stuff—mustn’t leave any unattended baggage—and head for the ladies room. I am greeted by a chorus of flushing. I feel grateful that airport potties are mercifully clean.

Always a place to hang your purse–and we’ll leave the light on for ya’.

Having spotted a sundry kiosk, I meander down the corridor. I wonder how much they will gouge me for gum…eight bucks, likely. People mill about here and there, waiting for their flights, separated from their loved ones far too early before takeoff. The price we all pay to stay safe from the threat of terrorists.

The pretty young gal working the mini-store is being worked by a strapping young man in a blue work shirt and a name badge. He is Hector. She is not rude to me, although she says hi to me while looking at him.

The gum is only three-seventy-nine. That’s way better than eight, right? The small, white square cracks open and the minty liquid center washes over my tongue and my coffee breath. I never did have breakfast. Hopefully they serve peanuts on the flight.

I head back to the gate. Someone has already taken my seat; before the vinyl has even grown cold, my space is easily filled with another soul. The chairs are almost completely full now. We’re all here together, waiting.

Together alone.

A rumpled Everyman leans against the wall next to his too big to really qualify as a carry-on carry-on, sucking on an iced Starbuck’s, only it’s not a Starbuck’s because this airport only has Pete’s. He looks uncomfortable and tired. His backpack straps are making his wrinkled shirt ride up, so I can see a little of his belly peaking out. He isn’t aware. I can see that he is the hairy sort.

He is thinking about how he is going to cover his mortgage and the twenty-five hundred dollar charge he put on his Visa for the How To Make Money on the Internet seminar he just attended. Mary’s gonna kill him this time for sure.

I see one remaining open seat, facing the corridor—a perfect perch for people-watching. I think about how odd it is in airports, how we all freely watch people and write their stories, unaware that someone is writing ours too. It doesn’t matter. Maybe someone is writing a better one than the one we have written for ourselves.

Do you mind if I sit? I ask.

She is very pretty. Thirty something. Thirty two. No, maybe just thirty. No visible makeup and still stunning. She is small…petite…a delicate-featured blond. She reminds me of someone, but I can’t think of who.

She says, no, please go ahead, Everyman over there gave up his seat for me so I could sit down.

I think, of course he did.

It is the first seat in the row of seats; I slide into the tight space between her and the large man standing next to it. There is only room because she is small, but now I don’t want to invade her space, so I carefully gather myself and my stuff in so as to not be a bother. She flashes her pretty smile at me and then resumes her people watching. Her eyebrows arch playfully over her twinkly faerie eyes.

I like your jeans, I say.

Oh! Thank you! she says.

I like the boot cut, I say. Yeah, me too, she says. I launch into how my daughter talked me into buying a pair of skinny jeans; they’re not very comfy—yadda, yadda, yadda—like I’m still young and cool and can pull off skinny jeans. Back to people watching.

There is a group of five Latino men standing in a circle just to our left. They are friends or work colleagues or cousins. They talk quietly among themselves and steal glances at the pretty blond girl. I wonder if they have measured me up too.

I can feel Everyman’s gaze from time to time.

One of los hermanos has dropped a pencil. He has two pens in his shirt pocket. He hasn’t noticed, and I wait to see if I can catch his glance. I will him to look at me, and he does. I point to the pencil. You dropped your pencil, I say. He doesn’t smile or thank me, he just bends and picks it up like he knows he dropped it. I guess I didn’t really measure up. I wonder if Blond Faerie would have elicited the same indifference. Not likely.

She and I start to giggle. I say, airports trip me out—are you trippin’? She nods and we laugh harder in agreement. I say, it’s like we’ve gone through some strange portal into an alternate reality or something.

More laughter. The tightness in the air around us breaks and something inside my chest makes a connection and I feel something like relief and loneliness and familiarity.

Oh my God, yes! She says again. She uses a lot of exclamation points, but I can tell she is really smart.

Are you coming or going? She asks.

Good question. I almost never know.

I tell her that I’m headed home. Just spent the weekend here in LA with my kids. I wonder if she thinks it’s a custody thing. I clarify—my son’s girlfriend just graduated from performing arts school and I came to see her final play and graduation.

Wow! She says. That’s great! I feel like she means it. She is warm.

My son graduated from the same school two years ago, and my daughter too, the year before that, I gush. I wonder if I’m getting the dates right. I wonder if I’m already talking too much. I redirect the conversation.

You? I ask.

I’m headed to Sac to visit my mom. Awwwwwww! I say with an exclamation point. I mean it—I feel the ache in my chest. I wish I could see my mom.

Faerie Girl is saying, Yeah, I’m gonna spend a week with her. Awesome, I say. I want to tell her to hug her mom and drink her in and look into her eyes and listen to her stories, but she is telling me that she can’t believe that my kids are old enough to be graduating from college; I look too young…

I love this, of course.

She says, I figured you were my age—forty. You must have married young.

I get this a lot.

Yep. Married my soul mate, I say (this gets them every time). So rare. So lucky. A relational guru. Way off the charts. Beating the odds. I can feel something like envy coming back at me. As if I have anything to do with it.

I was with my soul mate, she says. But he left me… She smiles as she says this.

A puzzling statement from one so fair. I can see her strength and her vulnerability all at once. A dahlia.

It is time to board. I, of course, checked in late, so I am in the last boarding group.

So is Faerie Girl.

I put out my hand as we stand together. I’m Kathy, I say. Jennifer, she says. It fits.

Her name and her tiny hand.

We move together toward the queue. I have grown so practiced in hiding behind my carefully constructed walls of having my shit together, but suddenly I just don’t feel like hiding. Please know me, my heart says, a touch of something like urgency rising as we walk. Keeping my cool so as to not betray my desperate desire to connect, I ask if she wants to sit together.

Oh yes exclamation point.

Moving into the sunlight and toward the great metal bird whose riveted belly stands open to receive us, it occurs to me once again that we are all total strangers heading together in perfect trust to our possible deaths or destinations… but now two of us, newly minted friends.

The jet engines roar, creating their own wind as we make our way up the rolling staircase. It moves ever so slightly as each of our steps fall into the rhythm of the person ahead of us. I turn to speak to Jennifer and have to bend down close to her face to be heard. She allows me easily into her space.

By the way, I say, I had guessed you at thirty my dear, not forty. I suddenly feel ridiculous even though I mean the compliment with all my heart. I try to make it real. I tell her, I meant to say it earlier; after forty we need to hear it every day, exclamation point. Jennifer laughs. She laughs at all my jokes.

We pass through the curtain of wind at the rear doorway of the plane. The strong whoosh makes a last attempt to completely blow my head full of curls out of all proportion to my rather smallish skull. My heart sinks a little at the sea of passengers seated down the aisle in front of me. No two seats left together.

Over my shoulder I say to my new girlfriend that I guess we won’t be sitting together. No room to turn around to shake her hand. Or give her a hug.

Well, have a nice flight, she says, and a safe trip home! You too, and have fun with your mom. A little deflated, I continue on to find a seat.


I’m waiting by the curb. My ride is late. The voices of vehicles and travelers echo and bounce around the concrete cave as I watch the last few passengers recognize their friends, colleagues, and lovers, bundle into cars and speed away to their lives.

Alone again. I catch my reflection in the large glass doors of the terminal and adjust my slumping posture. Girls up. Deep breath. Confidence. I think about my new friend. I wish I had gotten her contact info.

I move around the wide concrete pillar on my left to the stone benches reserved for the orphans. There she sits, legs up, crossed in a casual lotus; she is checking her phone. She looks up and smiles. Hey!

Hi! I say. We laugh. Her mom is late. I am glad. Yeah, my ride is late too.

She tells me about how she is in-between jobs. She and her ex had started an online New Age magazine—obviously that didn’t work out. Now a friend is training her to process loan applications.

I think: some friend.

I know that we could easily talk for another few hours. I want to ask her what she really wants to do with her life, if she ever wonders about what the hell she’s here for, why everything feels so disconnected, if she is alternately blown away by the beauty and the ugliness of life, if she feels like she’s from another planet altogether…

But just now comes another tiny faerie creature.

She is several inches shorter than Jennifer—her white hair is shorn very close. She is lovely and also so very cool in her jeans and short Levi’s jacket. She is seventy-eight. She looks sixty. I don’t tell her this, she clearly does not need to hear it like I do.

Everything is moving quickly—Jennifer is gathering her things, mom is in charge now, grabbing her daughter’s big suitcase and hurrying to get them to the parking structure and on with their itinerary.  I think this stay may be a challenge for Jennifer.

Have a great visit! I say. Jennifer stops. Puts down her bag. Moves toward me.

Our embrace feels completely comfortable, natural, and too short. She looks briefly in my eyes and sees me; her mom says, let’s go! They make their way back inside the terminal toward the parking lot on the other side; the glass doors shoosh shut like on Star Trek.

I stand in the breezy breezeway. My ride is not here. I am alone, but not as alone as I was before.

My friend is only a thought now; I never did get her number.

I had indeed passed through some strange portal. An Airportal. We both had, Jennifer and I—and in that little sliver of time, we came heart-to-heart with each other and face-to-face with ourselves. Two women…two souls with no plan, no agenda, no ulterior motive…just a willingness to unmask for a moment and let one another in.

For a second, I felt sad and perhaps a little pissed at myself for not having secured a way to reach my new friend so I could have more of whatever that was.

I always want more.

More connection. More understanding. More love.

The kind of wanting that drives some girls to join a harem. And some girls to join a cult–like I did. But that is another story altogether.

Then I remember something another friend wrote:

…where do those ripples come from? It’s as though the river is embracing and letting go…embracing and letting go.

And so, I can let go. Now a bit freer to embrace myself.


Photo reference: Book cover from Some Girls, My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren. A veeeeery interesting read. Poignant, very well written, heartbreaking. Raw subject matter and situations. A very strong writer with a very unusual story.

Brief excerpt from River Ripples, a poem by Linda McGinnis.


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  1. Beautiful post!!! I am in love with your writing style. Can’t wait to read the next one! 🙂 Much love.

  2. I love your airport story. For those of you who like Kathy’s wonderful style . . . stay tuned for the book to come! You will love it.

  3. Wow! Fantastic, refreshing voice. I didn’t want the story to end! Can’t wait to get a copy of your book!

  4. Sandy - the niece says:

    Wait…a BOOK??!! Who/what/when/where/how?

    • Hmhmmmmm Sandy. You heard that right. Memoir. Soon. Will keep you posted… 🙂 Thanks for coming by! xo

      • Sandy - the niece says:

        Awesome! Can’t wait to read it! I’ll keep an eye out for the part about how the flower girl at your wedding did such an amazing job handing out flowers that it changed. your. life. forever. Probably.