Friday, December 18, 2009

christmas at the airport: arrivals

i've safely arrived at the airport to start my writer in residence for Christmas at the Airport and have banged out the opening scene. i'll post it below and update throughout the day...

Dave arrived at the airport just after 6 am. He was a little behind schedule, as a greasy coating of snow had slowed the roads. His taxi had gotten stuck behind cautious cars and the driver was in no hurry. The driver stopped beside the departures entrance, double-parking beside another taxi. Dave paid him and stepped out, the cold air punching him in the lungs as he inhaled. The taxi trunk popped open and the driver moved to the back to unpack Dave’s two bags. One was a small, wheeled suitcase and the other was a backpack. He handed them to Dave.
“Here you go, sir,” he said when Dave didn’t respond.
“Oh. Thanks,” Dave said, taking the bags.
“Have a good flight,” the driver offered.
“Sure,” Dave replied, but the cabbie was gone already.
Dave stood outside the terminal. Behind him stretched a freshly frozen expanse of dark land. In front of him, the cheery warmth of the airport beckoned. He took a deep breath, ignoring the pain of the arctic air. Grabbing his suitcase and shouldering his backpack, he stepped towards the opening doors.


He found an empty seat near the Tim Hortons and sat down, checking the departures board out of habit. He tucked his bags under his chair and ordered a coffee, checking over his shoulder to make sure security wasn’t about to detonate his luggage.
“Double double,” he said, handing over change.
He took his coffee and returned to his seat. The airport was quiet. A few families filled the tables outside the coffee shop. The central benches, over which the airport banners boasted of its success, were empty. Dave tapped his passport and ticket against his knee.
He sat back, sighing. It was Christmas. He was at the airport. He wasn’t going anywhere. He wasn’t meeting anyone.
This was the tenth straight year Dave had come to the airport at Christmas, passport and tickets in hand, along with a diminishing sense of optimism.
The first year, it was easy. He planned to just hop on the plane, fall asleep, and awake home five hours later. He had pulled up in a taxi, taken his bags, clutched his passport and ticket, and entered the airport. He had gotten as far as the check-in gate when he felt a twist in his stomach. He sat down for a moment, running through what he’d eaten the night before. The pain passed and he tried again. The pain returned. Alarmed, Dave took a seat. The pain abated. Hm. He tapped his ticket and passport against his knee. He had plenty of time until his flight, so he wasn’t worried.
Four hours later, he was still sitting, still tapping his ticket and passport against his knee. Everytime he stood up and approached the check-in desk, his large and small intestines screwed tightly and Dave returned to his seat.
Five hours later, his flight finally took off, leaving Dave at the airport. At Christmas.
Shortly after that, Dave departed via taxi.
“Where to, pal?” the driver asked.
Dave gave his address. Then realized it wasn’t his address anymore. He’d moved out the day before, the last step of packing up his old life.
“Just take me to a hotel,” he told the driver.
An hour later he was checked in, staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.
It took him a year to work up the nerve – and the money – for another attempt.
He got as far as the check-in desk. His intestines wrenched.
He went home.
Now, settling in for his tenth straight Christmas at the airport, Dave was saddened by the thought he might actually leave this year. It had been a long, lonely decade, and he’d come to eagerly anticipate his Yuletide reprieve from solitude.
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