And so – all wonderful trips come to an end, and we trade the urbane vacation lifestyle of coffee corto, tapas and Mudejar culture for Mulberry pollen, tax bills and sinking foundations.
We spent the final hours of our trip sitting in the Admiral’s Club at DFW drinking ice water and trying to stay awake. We found a couple of chairs in a corner next to a rather odd looking (for the lounge anyway) young man. Anyone who has spent any time in these places knows the pecking order. You have the loud business people congregating in the middle, making the world aware of their importance. You have the sophisticated traveling couples, trying to get out of the way. You have the families sitting around in goggle-eyed wonder finally understanding how mom or dad spends their time when they’re on the road. And you have the guy that no one wants to sit by because he doesn’t fit in those other groups. This was whom we chose to sit by – long trenchy kind of coat, knit hipster hat, scraggly beard and guitar case. He was a completely fine companion, but being odd looking we were the only people willing to associate ourselves with his space. He drank Vodka and Tonics and eventually packed up and left.
It was within an hour of our departure so we decided to head back to the Starbucks at C15 and treat ourselves to something other than ice water. As I walked past the seat where our friend had been sitting, I noticed a fancy pair of those giant headphones, now popular among the smart set, sitting on the floor by his chair. He had forgotten them. I showed MLW and told her that we should keep an eye out for him on the off chance that he hadn’t left yet; perhaps he had done the same thing we were doing, getting out for a bit of air before getting on a plane, and we might run into him.
We left and walked and got our drinks and were heading back to our departure gate when I saw him, walking straight at me. I raised a hand and waved but he didn’t see me so I gave a loud “Excuse me” that caught his attention. He was shocked when I explained who we were and where we’d seen him, most people simply do not absorb the details of their environment the way I do. I told him about the headphones and he looked stunned – I could see the wheels turning – and without even checking his bags he said “Oh my god, you people are so kind. Good karma on you!” I told we try to help where we can. He did an about-face and walked back towards the lounge.
We boarded on time and left quickly and settled into that awful state where you’re on the tail end of 20 hours of being awake and every little noise is amplified to the point of pain. MLW dozed off and I read, being wildly entertained by the jackass in the seat across from us. Two shots of vodka before leaving and he tells the attendant that “I’m going to be your problem child on this flight.” As we flew west, he continued to make loud pronouncements so that we’d all know the details of his trip. The flight attendant kept bringing him beer after beer, making me think about the last drunk the airlines had put on the road who had driven the wrong way up I25 until he killed himself and 4 out of 5 family members coming home from a gymnastics meet. I hoped he was being met, because I didn’t want to have to manage my way around him out on the road. As is turned out, he was meeting his brother who was not going to be there, because he didn’t know that we were arriving early and thus his first visit to Albuquerque in 30 years to see his dad was going to be messed up but it didn’t matter because he was never going to fly coach again. Such are the mundane details that drunks feel we need to know. It didn’t help when the guy in the seat behind him engaged him in a shouting conversation about how the Duke City hadn’t changed a bit in all that time.
I was glad to get off the plane and to begin the last leg of our journey home. I passed Drunk Visitor walking through the terminal with his family, still yelling about first class. His sister in law (?) said “I see you hit the bar on the plane” as they headed to baggage claim.
The car was where we’d left it, and the “check engine light” that had been on when I parked it was mysteriously off. One more real life detail to think about and one I’d been delightfully oblivious to for the past two weeks. We paid our fee and headed north.
When I was little, I used to go to Florida over every spring break with my dad. I’d leave in the winter and come back in the spring, the trees would go from stripped bare to green in the course of that vacation. And so it was here, turning on to our street, with the bright lights on the car illuminating the now forming long green tunnel that is the beginning of our neighborhood. I drove on, feeling that it was good to be home.
One last photo from stroll down Calle Las Huertas, toward the Prado.