Up in the Air

Steve and I wake up very early on Tuesday, April 5. Moving Day.

Very quickly and efficiently we pack everything, clean the apartment, shower and get ready to go. I start to notice my home turning back into an empty apartment that is no longer mine. When it’s time to leave, I can’t help but cry. I absolutely loved it here. Steve holds me and kisses me and we say our last goodbyes to the apartment.

On his first visit back in June of 2016, I picked Steve up from LAX and we immediately drove down to Long Beach so that I could drop off my security deposit to Gary. Then Steve and I drove to the apartment – just to check it out. We walked in together, to the empty space, and he was just as excited for me as I was to soon be living here.

Now, here he is with me again, in this empty space. It’s incredible to think of the excitement and newness of our relationship then, compared to the love between us now; a love that continues to grow and that I couldn’t have possibly foreseen. I’m so happy, but so emotional.

As we stand outside and wait for our Uber, Steve asks me if I want to go back up to the roof one last time. Absolutely not. I’ll be hysterical up there. We catch our ride in an SUV and load it up with all our bags. It feels so weird to be driving away from my Long Beach home for the last time. But I’m finished crying. I’m relieved to have everything checked off our big list of things to do: getting rid of my car, selling my stuff, packing and shipping everything, and cleaning the apartment from top to bottom. Everything is done and Steve and I are finally on our way.

Also, it’s impossible to feel anything but happiness at the Long Beach Airport (my favorite airport ever). We arrive with plenty of time to spare and enjoy a glass of Chardonnay together in the sun, toasting to our completion of the move. We did it. We’re here, and now it’s just time to go home. To my new home. To our home.

We just have to get there. Stupid flying. The first leg is fine and we have just enough time between flights to not rush in Phoenix. The second leg is a lot longer – four or five hours.

The woman sitting in the window seat (let’s call her Kathy) is an odd duck. She’s older, looks like some kind of hippie, and asks A LOT of questions. Some to Steve and some to the extremely sweet flight attendant. “Where are we?” “What are those big white things down there?” “What state are we flying over right now?” “Can I have a pen?”

It’s not that she’s not nice. She’s just weirdly aggressive and something’s not all there. Steve, Mr. Germa-phobe, answers all her questions (as best he can) but cringes every time she sneezes. (He also practically forces me to use hand sanitizer before we share a sandwich. Unbelievable.)

The pilot gets on the mic a number of times to let us know that there’s going to be some turbulence. Every time, I brace myself, but it’s not too bad. Barely anything, really. Then he gets on and lets us know that there’s a storm, but not to worry because it’s on either side of us, and we’re going to fly right between it.

Perfect. I look to the left and right to see the most close-up, insane lightning bolts I’ve ever seen. THAT is scary. I don’t like it. What if we get hit?! Yea, I heard you, we’re in between the storm, but how do you know FOR SURE that we’re not going to get hit?

Thankfully, my panic subsides as the flashes of light lessen.

It’s been a long day of travel. If all goes well, Steve and I are hoping to get home in time to run across the street to the grocery store for a bottle of wine and something to eat. The store closes at 11. We might get there by 10:30.

We should be landing soon. I hear the wheels go down as we start our descent. Slowly, we get lower and lower. We’re so close! Yay! It feels like we’re about to land, when all of a sudden, the plane roars and I can feel us very quickly – too quickly – going back up into the air. This does not feel right. This feels HORRIBLE. Has someone taken over the plane? My left hand grips my arm rest and my right hand grips Steve’s hand as I hold my breath, terrified of what’s happening. I have flown many times in my life now, and nothing like this has every happened. We’re still going up, so fast. I look to my right at Steve, hoping for some kind of comfort, but he looks back at me with a look that feels like it mirrors my own. I turn away from him and look to my left.

There’s a guy next to me on the other side of the aisle, who is leaned back in his seat without a care in the world. Let’s call him Bob.

I can’t help myself, so I ask him. What’s happening? Is this normal?! Bob shrugs, unaffected by my panicked tone. “Probably just going around again.” He can tell this isn’t enough for me. “Just keep looking forward. If you see the pilot jump, follow him.” Even though this is NOT what I want to hear, it has the desired effect of making me chuckle. Sort of.

Now we’re leveling out and the pilot finally talks to us over the speaker, apologizing and sounding slightly annoyed. Apparently, there is a lot of air traffic right now, and the plane in front of us was going too slow down the runway, not allowing us enough time to land, so he had to pull out of there. Now we “just have to circle back around.” As if this will take no time at all.

But I don’t care how long it takes. And I certainly don’t care about making it home in time for wine and food. I just want to live. And until we touch down, I’m going to be completely on edge. Because now all I can picture is all this “air traffic” going on. What if a plane hits us out of nowhere? What if the same thing happens again and he can’t pull up in time? What if our pilot actually doesn’t know what he’s doing? I look over at Bob. He appears to be sleeping.

After what feels like an hour, we touch down safely. I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. We made it. As soon as the seatbelt light goes off, everyone does that thing they do and unbuckles and stands up, as if we still don’t have to wait at least another 20 minutes to get off this plane. I stay seated, comfortably, and Steve and I discuss whether we still might actually have time to make it to the grocery store.

Meanwhile, this older woman, let’s call her Pam, has somehow pushed her way from the back of the plane all the way up until she’s directly next to me. I could hear her the whole way, “Excuse me, excuse me, let’s go, I need to get by, let’s go, I have a plane to catch.” She somehow makes it as far as me, but now she’s stuck, because that’s just not how it works, Pam. People are in front of you, and unless everyone stays in their seats, you are not making it off this plane ahead of anybody.

I look up at Pam, somewhat amused by her delusions and efforts. Now she’s rambling – to herself or all of us, I’m not sure. “C’monnnn, let’s go, I’m going to miss my flight.” She’s still looking ahead, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, as if there’s anything she can do about it. Which she can’t. Pam is going on and on and on. Her flight departs like, right now.

Bob is standing next to her, still in his seat. “What flight are you on?” She tells him, and in true Bob fashion he replies, nodding his head. “Yea, me too. We missed it.”

Steve and I burst out laughing. This guy. Here this woman is in sheer angry/panic mode, while Bob has just accepted it. I love this guy. It’s as if hearing Bob say it makes it real and I see Pam’s shoulders sink a bit, not fully ready to give up. But a lady sitting two rows ahead of me chimes in. “You’re flight’s delayed an hour.” Pam snaps back at her in disbelief. “How do you know that??” The lady very calmly replies. “My husband’s on that flight… and the internet.”

Steve and I burst out laughing, again. This just keeps getting better and better. Even Pam is starting to loosen up now. She has a chance to make her flight. What felt very tense in the air before is now settling as we turn from strangers to comrades.

But what is Pam’s gate? I go ahead and look it up on my phone for her. B21. I confirm her exact new departure time and now Pam is relieved. Bob seems completely unfazed either way. Now there’s another man, behind Bob, who leans over to me. “Would you mind looking up my flight, too?”

This is incredible. I think I just learned yesterday how to track a flight. And it’s not hard, but it’s like none of these people have phones. This is so bizarre and I love it.

I tell Pam she better get to the back of the plane where she came from because all of these other people around her are going to miss THEIR connecting flights. Everybody’s laughing and having a good time when Kathy, out of nowhere, jumps in.

“My plane leaves at 11! I need to get off this plane!” She actually starts to stand up, like she’s going to get somewhere. Everyone looks at her, wondering how she could have possibly missed our whole conversation, and Pam says, “Join the club.”

Kathy looks seriously worried and I do feel bad for her. It seems as if everyone on this plane is about to miss a connecting flight. And here Steve and I are, upset that we might not get a bottle of wine. This is the first time on this flight that I’m OK with just sitting here, witnessing the entertaining cast of characters around us.

And finally, the masses start moving. Once off the plane, we can see that the entire airport is a circus. It wasn’t just our flight – it’s every flight. I’ve never seen so many people at once sprinting through the airport. Bob jogs ahead – cool as can be – his carry-on in tow. Kathy comes up behind us, wide-eyed, not knowing where to go. Follow him!

She does. I stand and watch them go. I hope they all make their flights!!

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