A Day En Transit

MGA - IAH - LAX - SMF June 30, 2015

GRANADA, NICARAGUA:

We woke up at a 16th century colonial mansion turned backpacker’s inn.

We snuck out quietly as to not wake our sleeping compadres in the bunks around us.

Before 5am the carretera was quieter than we’d ever seen it, minimizing the need to swerve between rickshaws and cattle drives.

The cabbie didn’t have change for our US dollars, so he got a little extra tip.

Perhaps it was a commonly implemented strategy to best departing gringos.

Whatever the case, he left content.

We used our remaining Cordobas to eat one last gallo pinto breakfast before boarding our flight north.

It was lacking maduros fritos, aguacate, tostones and chilero.

First world, developing world, doesn’t matter: airport food consistently sucks.

Duty Free lured Joe into buying Flor de Caña rum to take back to Fargo.

I didn’t let myself follow his lead.

My liver is still processing my indulgences.

Moments after sitting down on the plane my eyes were shut and drool wet my beard.

HOUSTON:

We’d be saying goodbye quickly here, and multiple times, because of a tight connection, plus customs and rechecking the bags.

I sprinted ahead after deplaning.

I hugged Joe goodbye and promised that I’d see him and Simone soon.

Sooner than I’d thought.

My heart raced as my sandaled feet slapped across the strikingly sterile floor at the international terminal.

America sure knows how to clean, i mused.

Was I a US Citizen or Resident?

I couldn’t determine the difference.

I was definitely a citizen, but didn’t own a residence, so I joined the citizen’s line.

There I found myself surrounded by a lot of foreign tongues and began to question my rationale.

Too late, I thought.

I was already committed to the line.

Simone strolled up and walked toward the resident’s line.

Of course I am a resident of the US! Where else did I live?

I suddenly felt exiled and nostalgically patriotic.

With nothing to claim and nothing to hide I slid back into the USA and resumed my sprint.

An empty carousel at baggage claim allowed for an anxious breather.

Then Joe walked up.

We split a Clif Bar and, after locating my bag, we said goodbye again.

Simone had fallen behind.

“See you in Chicago or Fargo or Arizona or somewhere!”

He rolled his eyes and I ran up some stairs faster than someone walking the escalator steps.

Another security checkpoint had me zigzagging through a maze again.

My flight would leave in 20 minutes with or without me.

I developed a nervous twitch, but turned it into a two-step dance.

Cool and composed.

Then Joe and Simone showed up again.

Somehow they ended up directly behind me.

They had been strolling the whole time.

I said one last goodbye.

Simone tapped me on the back as I was recovering from a TSA pat-down.

I smiled goodbye and then began my race again.

Funny how the last actual opportunity to say a real goodbye led to me not saying anything at all.

You never know when the end will arrive.

Sometimes it shows up just as you’re departing.

LOS ANGELES:

I paid nearly $12 for a “super foods salad.”

Lettuce and vegetables with couscous is pretty super, I suppose.

Don’t think of Nica prices anymore, I told myself. 

I sat for an hour or two in waiting.

Two mormons spoke of missions.

The younger was just returning home from New Zealand for the first time in two years.

The older looked like a character you’d watch ask for money on a religious cable TV channel.

I admired their commitment.

Then I imagined what I could accomplish in two year’s time.

There’s gotta be something good for the soul just in committing, I thought.

I wrote in my journal about Joan Didion’s book, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” and my hopes to one day be a real writer.

Then an overweight Mexican boy spilled blue soda on the carpet beneath his chair, interrupting my daydream. 

I warned him of the flood reaching his backpack and he thanked me before abandoning the mess for another seat.

There were plenty vacant.

A woman sat where he’d been and I warned her not to set her bag down in the puddle.

She didn’t understand English, so I pantomimed the potential disaster.

She thought I was losing it.

I was determined and losing it.

She finally understood.

I hadn’t lost it.

A crowd gathered around a TV screen and cheered when the US Women’s soccer team scored against Germany in the semifinals of the World Cup.

I didn’t even know there was a tournament going on.

There goes my patriot points.

A light rain was falling on the plane as we boarded it for Sacramento.

“Rain in California,” I thought, “now this is nostalgic.”

SACRAMENTO:

The patchwork farms and winding river are my picture of home.

Seeing it makes me giddier than any world-class skyline.

I was born here, and maybe that’s why it always feels right to return, I considered.

Sacramento.

Sacrament.

Holy thing.

I want to be holy, too.

The man seated next to me had left Warsaw this morning.

Now we were landing in Sacramento together.

The miracle of flight, I thought. 

I welcomed him as if I were mayor.

Patriotism dissipated into love.

104 degrees waited for me on the curb.

The dry heat was a quick kiss, unlike Managua’s humid hug.

Now I’m resting atop sheets in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Today was a full day en transit.

Buenas noches. 

I mean, good night.