It was a cold day in Columbus, Ohio, on February 2nd. I woke up early - punishingly so, like maybe 7:00 a.m. - and got in a van to go to the airport. I imagine my flight lifting off maybe 90 minutes later. I imagine myself pretending I'd read. I imagine dozing off to something playing on the reliable iPod Classic I still to this day have.
One hour and thirty-five minutes later (approximately) I am in the gilded terminal of Ronald Regan International Airport in Washington D.C.. The view of the frosty Potomac tells me its just about as cold as it was where I left. So be it.
My phone starts buzzing, an archaic thing: physical keyboard, no apps, cartoonishly small mega-pixel camera. You remember those days. There's an unusual number of texts from an unusual number of people. "Are you okay?" "So sorry to hear the news!" "Let me know if you need anything." Unusual theme in these texts I got while in airplane mode on an airplane. Someone sent me a link to a Pitchfork article, somebody else a tweet, a Facebook post. I open the first one I land on and see this:
I imagine 24 hours from then I will be driving back to the airport, cutting through the first wave of commuter traffic passing through downtown Columbus, skipping the exit I'd take to get to Ohio Dominican University; an exit I passed hundreds of times when I was an undergrad at Otterbein. I imagine I will get a breakfast sandwich at Sheetz, I imagine - or rather, fear - I will lose that bagel and sausage to a bout of anxious nausea. I am not the cowboy I used to be.
I imagine arriving early, breezing through the parking structure. I imagine making a joke about not being quite as fat in my passport picture to the TSA agent, who, I imagine, will not repay the warmth. I'll sit at the terminal, praying the Xanax starts working. I imagine I will open my book, unable to read a single word leave it open like the world's worst mirror, staring back at me.
I imagine putting on The White Stripes. No, I can just about rely on that happening tomorrow morning. I'll settle for their final album, the live Under Great White Northern Lights, a record that chronicles their 2007 tour of Canada. I resent the album, it being a totem to the straw that broke the camel's back for Meg White. Then I hear a voice in the terminal calling a boarding group well beyond my budget. I understand her fear. I turn the volume up as I'm shuffled into my seat.
One hour and thirty-five minutes later (approximately) I will be in the gilded terminal of Ronald Regan International Airport in Washington D.C.. The view of the frosty Potomac will tell me its just about as cold as it was where I left. So be it.
My phone will start buzzing, but only a little. "Ben's drop off was okay." "The dogs both peed." "Hope you are alright." I'll read that last one a few times, tethered to the things that have changed in the last ten years: Rachel, Ben, the dogs, my nephew; tethered to the things that have not: the winter, the old iPod Classic and all the songs it plays, me and all the old songs I remember and still sing, The White Stripes, forever.
The morning light echoes off of the terminal walls, the river outside, a wingtip speeding by. My feet are on the ground. Am I alright? Turning the volume down a little I imagine, my worst fears once again not coming true, feeling just fine.