At LaGuardia Airport a facilities staff member talks on the telephone at the gate desk to my right, her body tense, her trash-barrel cart parked close. She’s small-boned and dark-skinned, salt-and-pepper hair pulled tight, pinned back. She speaks into the handpiece with a lot of energy for 10 minutes or more about a passage in the Bible. She makes references to Saint Paul, insisting on his revisionist intentions, his metaphorical meanings. She gives tutorial and reassurance. She speaks with conviction. She speaks at volumes that surprise me. The gate clerk stands with his elbows on the desk, rapt, seemingly appreciative.
I am eating
and pretending to read on my Kindle. I’ve
reviewed the same paragraph in Barnaby
Rudge 35 times. Varden, the locksmith, and Mr. Haredale affirm and affirm again
their faith in the goodness of Mrs. Rudge, despite all appearances. At my back, large windows frame a fog-bathed
tarmac. Most of the other passengers at the gate gaze blankly in my direction and
out the window. I imagine that a few at
least watch in wonderment as I devour a 6-inch sandwich (mostly day-old
ciabatta), an oversized bag of potato chips, a small tub of Greek yogurt, and a
banana, all with speed and uncharacteristic gusto, covering myself in crumbs,
licking my fingers, poking randomly at the Kindle, all while surreptitiously
eavesdropping on others. I am simultaneously
making a spectacle of myself and trying to lose myself. The others do the same.
I wonder, why do I always want to be
anyone, indeed, everyone else?
A couple to
my left talk with varying degrees of heatedness about what the woman finds in
the newspaper. I wish to be them. They banter over trends in recent choreography.
(I know nothing about trends in recent choreography.) They argue briefly about
ballet dancers. They bemoan the New York City budget. They decry the fate of some poor dog of a
scientist whom, they suspect, has lost his position for forecasting a natural
disaster. They are wry. They are informed. They are outraged. They give tutorial and reassurance. Soon, I stand to shake the crumbs off my
clothes, I’m dancing before the tarmac. I’m the star of a show about a woman
who listens jealously to other people’s conversations. I don’t realize it at
the time, but my checked bag is at the moment being lost. Drama abounds. I am at the center and at the periphery.