Michelle swings by promptly at 8 am and I load my small duffel into the back of her Honda. It’s a 25-minute drive to the Fayetteville Northwest Arkansas Airport. The place is vacant except for one gate agent behind the American Airlines ticket counter. It seems as if I’ve jumped the gun. I’m presented with three separate old school rectangular tickets complete with codes over misaligned print. I venture farther inside to find the TSA Pre-Check. I’m still the only customer and file through the lone metal detector without incident.
Slowly, Gate B4 fills up with a planeload of travelers and a small Brazilian commuter jet noses into place by the jetway. I observe the people exiting the plane. They must all have a reason to be here and I try to determine a purpose for each passenger as they hurry past the boarding door. I rule out connecting flights.
As for my connections, they are all extremely tight. Choked taxiways and occupied gates further reduce my time on the ground and navigating sky trains across multiple terminals through Dallas and Miami become a track event. I run, even though I know it’s a bad idea with a ravaged left knee. Not making it to my destination tonight is a worse fate than a bottle of Motrin and a week of painful steps. Thunderstorms buck our Airbus A321 on approach to Boston and the Russian woman in the middle seat next to me fills two airsick bags. Thankfully, I can’t smell the rancid ejection and decide to mind my own business as the wheels find the runway.
My trip through Logan is a slow one. I can feel the beating I took sprinting through Miami, but I have what I brought with me and secure a cab to Brookline. Boston is familiar and I roll up to my in-law’s house. I’ll spend the night here before catching a train to Kingston, RI the next morning. It’s great to see my former Brown ski team athlete turned sister-in-law. It’s been over two years and we catch up on the little things you miss when life sprinkled with a pandemic forces you into separate corners of the ring.
The next morning Beth carts me to Boston’s Back Bay Amtrak station and the silver chain of carriages glide to the platform right on time. It’s not difficult to find a seat and I watch the blurred backyards of Massachusetts speed by the window. After stops at Route 128 and Providence, the masts of sailboats moored in Narragansett Bay appear and a permeating sense of calm and relief fill my mind. I’m home.