I sat in a bench of armchairs at a little airport in the small town of Melbourne, Florida. The hour was early and the airport was mostly empty. Overhead, the lights brightened the white ceiling and glowed over a blue, Miami style carpeting.
I was amongst a small group of passengers that arrived early to quickly slip through the security checkpoints. Men in suits walked with urgency. They passed with business hats on their heads, a newspaper folded in half—tucked underneath the free arm while the other gripped to the extended handle of a wheeled, carry-on bag.
I admit that I am a guilty fan of people watching. Yet with no one around to watch, I settled down to take in the sights. I could see the morning sky through the tall windows throughout the gate area. Airplanes slept dormant at their spaces with the ramp extended outward and opened above the hatch doors like the mouth of a long rectangular hose.
Overhead, long strands of pastel clouds hugged the horizon with the birth of sunlight already pushing through. Slowly the airport began to take on a different shade of life. One by one, the small kiosks opened. The bar opened for breakfast but the food appeared less than appetizing.
I watched an overweight woman pile yellow and white chunks of scrambled eggs over strips of bacon and a biscuit. A young girl stood by her side with a thumb in her mouth. The young girl stood with her head leaned against the overweight woman’s hip. The heavy woman dressed in an odd fashion. She wore loud, mismatched colors and a scarf around her neck. She wore Crocs on her feet. And above all things I hate in this life; as far as shoes or fashion goes, Crocs are on my list as the most hated things to wear.
“You better eat something,” said the large and hungry woman
“I don’t like eggs,” complained the little girl.
“You’re gonna be hungry,” warned the big woman.
The little girl just grunted in a little girl, pre-tantrum noise, and said, “Hhmmm!”
Similar to the sunrise, which began slowly but arose quickly, life in the airport began slowly as well. However, moments later the sun was up and the airport was completely alive. Gift shops opened. Newspaper stands were available. The day began and life was on its way.
I was returning home after a four-day trip. Meanwhile, the weather in New York was cold. I began to wonder what it would be like to walk on a plane and go someplace else
There comes a time when we all need to find the world. Although the number is few; I remember a day from my teenage years that I wish I could relive again—exactly as it was.
The day was about to begin. The summer sun was on its way up. I was alone and my town was sleeping. I took a walk up Glenn Curtis Boulevard towards Hempstead Turnpike. Aside from the sporadic passing of a car or truck, there was little to no traffic. It was a Sunday and the morning sun came up from behind me to shine an orange glow across the neighborhood.
Ahead of me were the only of tall office buildings in my small town. The sides were made of green colored glass and reflected the sunrise as it happened behind me. I felt the warmth of the season. I felt the heat from the sun. Above all, I understood what a beautiful concept it is to be by myself and not feel alone.
There was no one around to impress or lie to. There was no one to worry about. There was only the sunrise and the summery chatter of cicada bugs that buzzed in the nearby trees.
I remember this day not because it was special or for anything specific. I remember it because for that moment; I was content to be silent. I was comfortable and happily uninvolved. I was young and minimally experienced in my sexual career. I was old enough to know what I liked but still to young to feel comfortable in my choices.
I thought of a girl. She was a classmate. She was thick in figure. Her eyes were almond shaped, which were a beautiful shade of hazel, and her lips were full and pouted. She had a happy smile. She was not thin; however, and in my insecure need to feel accepted—I treated this girl the way others treated her.
Her legs were curvy and so was her hips. Her soft olive skin was native to her South American roots. As I saw it, her face took on a doll-like appeal. And to me, she resembled a picture I once saw of an Aztec princess.
The girl was kind to me—offering herself in way that left no doubt about her intentions. And I, content with the idea of feeling what her body had to offer, accepted her invitation, which perhaps lasted no longer than five—to maybe ten minutes.
I always wondered what my teenage years would have been like if I had the wherewithal to be with that girl. I wondered if I had made the decision to tell her this a day earlier, maybe I could have told her the way I felt before she moved away.
At some point, we all need to have our own, “Come to Jesus meeting.”
At some point, we all need a morning like that one I had on Glen Curtis Boulevard. No one else is around. No one is there to intervene. We all need a moment when it is free to feel unhinged and perfectly disconnected.
Back in that airport; I wondered what it would be like to visit another town in another state. I wouldn’t need to stay anyplace fancy. I could do just fine in a small motel near a little roadside diner. I could try a piece of peach cobbler. Or maybe I could have a piece of chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes. I could cover it with sausage gravy and use a biscuit to sop up the muddy goodness on my plate.
I once took a ride up to Cortland with my cousin. The town was quaint and the homes were pretty. People smiled and said the simple things like, “Hello,” and “How are you.”
I think everyone needs a trip like this. In all honesty, I have not taken many expensive trips. However, I can safely say that I have stayed in expensive places. I can say that I stayed in top hotels and I have flown comfortably in business class.
Yet still, my best vacation ever was taken in an old, beat-up green Chevy van, and driven to an outdated A-frame cottage in the Pocono Mountains. The amenities were poor. The television set was perhaps as old as my oldest relative. The bed was uncomfortable and the couch in the living room near the fireplace was beaten to death.
Below the dark wood rafter ceiling, there was a small white refrigerator in the kitchen, which was nearly as old as the television set. There was a small, gas cooktop with a small white oven below it. The white sink and cabinetry was unevenly hung. The white aluminum drawers and cabinet doors hung lopsided. The linoleum flooring was peeled in spots. The Berber carpeting throughout the rest of the cottage was certainly older than I am. And it too had seen much better days.
Nothing worked properly. The outdated television was sided by an antiquated VCR with VCR tapes of movies that dated back to the early 1980’s.
Outside, the temperature was cold. There was snow on the ground and snow laced on the limbs of tall pine trees. There was no one else around. There was nobody to impress or compare myself to. There was no one around to intervene or interrupt.
Nearby, there was a place called The Scotrun Diner that served a breakfast better than any I’ve ever had. And around noon; an elderly couple came in the same time, each day.
They sat down across from each other—adoringly, holding hands, gripped together and entwined by years of history, love, and commitment.
I have seen many things in many different places.
But I have never seen anything like this.
There comes a time when we all need to explore. There comes a time when we need to stand in an open filed with no one around, no one to intervene or interrupt. We need to look up and see the brightness of a full moon without the interference of city lights. Overhead, stars twinkle and nighttime is beautiful.
We all need a night as bright as this one.
When I was young, I was too afraid to live my life as I wanted to.
I am not what anyone would call old. I am not young anymore.
And that’s the truth.
It is also true that I am not getting younger. I don’t want to wonder what my life would be like if I made different decisions. I don’t ever want to regretfully watch someone I care about move away without knowing how truly wonderful I think they.
One of my first jobs was working as a stock boy in the mall at Roosevelt Field. Every so often, a strange man would walk in to the store. He was not dangerous in any way. He was autistic and a rare savant.
This man would ask your age. Then he would ask the year and date you were born. Squinting his eyes, the man belted out an answer to a nearly impossible equation.
After learning an age, birthdate, and year, this man was able to calculate the seconds and minutes of life.
After I told this man my information; he looked at me and gave me a number. That was more than 20 years ago. Since that time, that number has more than doubled. I was 19 years old. There are 9,986,400 minutes in 19 years. And broken down, there are 59,918,400 seconds in 19 years
I wonder about this equation . . .
So I did a little figuring
As of today, I’ve been alive for approximately 82,637,904,960 seconds
(That’s way over 82 billion for those that can’t stand to read numbers and their commas)
That means I’ve been alive for approximately 1,377,298,416 minutes.
(That’s almost 1.4 billion)
I see this number and I wonder . . .
I wonder how many of those minutes were spent living . . .
and how many of them were spent dying