If I close my left eye, my world now is a blue jean, brown toe, blue mosaic tiled table, hazy glass mug of coke, and that’s just my left eye, even though it’s closed, that can see that. My right eye sees wicker arm of chair, sunglassed couple’s legs, and a hazy brown something in front of their omelets that I know are omelets not because I ever saw them but because the waitress said “Omelets?” in her Dutch accent when she brought them. Under the farthest eyelash of my right eye is the canal, with something light reflecting, I think a yellow rectangle. I turn my head for the first time in years, and it’s the sun in the water.
And now there is food. Two merrily overlapping triangles making a geometry book illustration. Tenth grade on the brown plate circle in my eyes. Above, there are two fried egg eyeballs that look sidelong down and over at my “tosti.”
What time is it? I might have been here all day or just a few hours. All day seems more true. Englishman with Bongo-nose behind me says 11:25 against the roar of a streetsweeper going past the coffee shop. One tosti down and now I feel less like I’m in math class.
My tongue is a funny little person who has just discovered textures and is going around stroking everything in sight, walking past food railings with a stick and bang bang banging the stick against them, but by holding it steady and walking by, stream-licking each railing in one long sweep as it walks past. It wants to do it again.
Cat-let eating carrots and lettuce off my plate and not that interested in the staring egg. Brother-cat came and took some egg, rushed away, egg tightly teeth-held. And the first cat and I slow-blinked at each other, saying “Loser, that guy. Yeah, I know.” My stomach says it appreciates my tongue’s eagerness to touch things and taste them thoroughly. It even listened quietly while Tongue waxed lyrical about the feeling of liquid, and how the egg yolks flowed over him and he swam in a quiet but bubbling pool of Coke. How it touched him and how it tasted more than ever before. And stomach nodded and told Tongue that unless he’d like those delicious items to surge once more over him, but in a partially digested form, he’d better stop consuming anything that involves chewing. Tongue sulked and ran around in his cave, touching the ceiling constantly for the sharp afterfood flavor or slightly raw roof, skinned a little from the abrasive toast. And now it feels as if marvelous sunny hours have passed and the organized side of my brain bounces around desperately. What is the time? And she’s right! 11:52 and must be there by 12:30.
And remembered one has to pay for food, so waiting for bill. Touchy sheeny lip-rub hair blows across towards the canal. Rainbows in the corners of paper-focused eyes. Train station just there, but brain says come on, let’s go. Shut up about tongue, stomach, make it to plane. Fly home. Remember home? Sort of. A few more quick dips into the bubblepool, hold the fizz in your mouth so the teeth have fun too.
11:56. Wish there was more time. Sun glistening gold on back of hand and pretty leaf vein web on back of knuckles.
Walked to the train station 0.2 km away, which took hundreds of steps. The men here are so shiny and tall and their jaws all have perfect lines. Factory-made sparkling, interested blue eyes, fair hair, and a few crows-feet in an attempt to make them seem like humans. I feel compelled to pace up and down Platform 13A for the 12:29 to Schipol or some other such word that in no way resembles airport to such a degree that I ask one of the G-model factory men, type G16, a tall, blonde-ponytailed, awkward-friendly man who says he “also hopes that this is the train for the airport.” Two hopes in the same train, I figure, will get us to the Schipol.
I plunk my blue pack down on the seat to my left so it can look out the window, and after some failed attempts to prop open my eyelids with two coke tabs I find in the seat in front of me’s back’s trash pocket, the shutters slide heavily towards one another and seal, as my left arm leans heavily on the blue person looking out of the window at the scenery, self-important.
G16 prods me with a long, leafy twig, or possibly a splinter from a nearby windmill; I think, and jerk awake. I gaze up at him, and he smiles and jerks his head. Ah, the airport, I realise. I thank him nine hundred times. In the airport, I walk past an oxygen bar, an incredible aqua massage machine into which I stare, rude – the man is covered in body bags and being pummeled everywhere by vicious jets of water. I realise he can see me and glide away over the polished surface of the moon, stopping again to stare at people sitting in leather armchairs next to a holographic image of flickering flames.
E4, E4, E4, I remind my funny little brain, and march towards it for several months. Eventually, I arrive, and am so flummoxed by the barrier around my gate of red tape and shiny silver metal that I step sideways, back and forth, like a weaving horse in a stall, figuring the best method to destroy this barrier to America. An older model –- type P10, I estimate, complete with distinguished salt and pepper stubble, regards me as I wave my octopus tentacles back and forth, trying to pass through the tape. It never occurs to me that it’s supposed to be stopping me. P10 nets the disoriented sea creature and brings it through to a larger aquarium. “Wait by the table at the back,” he says. But there are many different tables. The ones I would call tables, though, are roped off, this time with blue tape. Again, I consider crossing. The other table-like things are actually podiums. Does he mean them? I can’t decide and so linger casually halfway between the two objects. Table is a vague word, I think. He meant podium, his aquamarine 56 eyes tell me as he strides over. Ah yes, so did I, says my left hip as I shift closer to it. He knows.
“Did you pack your bags yourself, madam?”
“Did anyone give you anything to carry?”
“What do you do in America?”
“I’m a Ph.D. student, and I teach at a university.” Yes, admire me. And he does.
Until… “So, can I leave and come back?”
“I mean, is there time before the flight?”
“Oh. To do what?”
“Um, get a drink and some snacky things.”
“Yes, but you will have to bring the drink through in a sealed clear plastic bag.”
“What?” The man has turned into a three-headed giraffe. So many scenarios. The most likely is that he’s telling me that I can go and get a bottle of Diet Coke – sorry, Coca Light – and drink some of it, but the rest, I will have to pour into a Ziploc bag to bring onto the plane. A bag of Coca Light. How will I drink from it? How would I even pour it into a cup? Shouldn’t it have a goldfish in it, if we’re doing little baggies of liquid? He knows I’m thinking all of this, but it is legal here, I say in my head.
I wander off to E9, several hundred kilometers away, and find Coca Light and cheese straws. We have the plastic bag/drink discussion again at the register.
“Do you want to drink it now or on the plane?”
Both, I think. “Um,” I say.
“You have to choose,” she says.
“Plane,” I say at random. She makes me put back the bottle and get a can. She puts the can in a clear plastic bag, rips off some stickiness, and seals the bag. I carry my new pet fish back to the gate and send it through the X-ray machine, apologizing to it for exposing it to radiation, and promising to pay for chemo if it needs it. I step into a space shuttle, and put my arms all the way up above my wide-stepped legs, a Y in the YMCA dance. They’re not sufficiently impressed, so a woman has to feel my stomach and butt before they let me go and pick up my blue friend and my new pet, who didn’t mind the radiation at all, already being a carcinogen.
We all trundle through a long, empty rectangle and onto a little tin flying machine. My new pet got his own seat – the only explanation why we’re the only middle block on the plane to have the middle seat free.
My faraway seat mate and I are not friends because of the eighteen inch space between us, which makes us invisible to one another. We both use the empty seat for our belongings – his iPhone, my customs form. And we use the middle tray table to put our strip-mined trays of food on while we wait for the garbage cart. R4 is my special airplane guy, and he took my tray, but left my seatmate’s, and I smile, victorious and more important than this neatly folded collar and sweater man, who, when his flight attendant comes, does not even say thank you. I break the empty seat invisibility barrier and use my X-ray vision lent me by my carcinogenic friend to look at his book, and he’s reading something called Trigonometric Functions. Ha, I was right about him. I giggle a bit, and the two Dutch children to my right look at me.
We’re all in on it, now, and we smile together.
“Loser, that guy.”
“Yeah, I know.”