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We arrived pretty late to the airport. I’d spent so much time after Starliner saying goodbye and trying to be around everyone that I almost waited too long to pack or get anything ready. I fretted and stressed in the car over the speed and the traffic - I would find later that my rush had left me without any extra shirts or any cash.

Jane called me a kvetch only a few minutes after we’d met for the first time... I think she had me pegged from the start. I don’t have a choice in that, do I?

We reached the airport and found the gate. I started scanning for Bart the moment I got there. At this point I wasn’t about to leave for Atlanta without seeing him.

People milled around the gate, some sat, some stood watching out the window, some relaxed before the flight. I was started to get nervous because we were getting ready to start boarding - and there was no Bart.

“I have to go to the bathroom, I’ll be right back” Stefanie kissed me quickly on the mouth. “Where will you be?”

I looked over at a stretch of five empty seats in the middle of a row.

“I’ll be right there.” I excused myself past a man reading a paper and sat my backpack and laptop case on the floor in front of me. I looked up at her, as she escorted her nickel-sized bladder to the restroom, and watched her vanish around the corner.

I turned and looked around. I was skeptical if Bart had found the gate - we’d actually had to call the airline for the gate because it hadn’t been listed on the screens in the main entrance. I got out my phone and paged him but continued looking around me.

The guy sitting a few rows behind me was looking at me for some reason. I actually turned my head to see if he were looking behind me. There was no doubt, in my mind at any rate, that the look I was getting was a glare. I met his gaze for an instant but passed it over - I was uninterested in him or his attitude.

I sat alone for a few minutes and thought about the weekend and the people. The entire process that had started (for me) as we drew up the “Lesbians! Monkeys! Soy!” sign for JP, ended with a few quick handshakes and hugs goodbye in Bart's bedroom- everyone was sprawled across the bed and floor and laughing - I didn’t want to go away.

Bart called me after a few minutes. He was only a few gates down from us and talking with his mom. I told him my gate number and that we’d meet him as soon as Stef got out of the bathroom. I stood and exited the seats when she returned and we walked down to the far gate around the corner.

The guy was still watching me - glaring.

I began trying to sort through my head what I’d done to bother him so much. I’d made eye contact with several people when I’d made my initial scan of the area and his reaction was the only one that I could personalize. I told myself not to be paranoid about it - I saw him turn his head and watch as I walked past him. I was baffled and a little put out. Was I not straight enough? Had I allowed my simple scan of the boarding area turn into some kind of unabashed leer of lust? What the hell was THAT all about? He was cute, but not the type of cute that would produce a lusty stare across a crowded room.

I must be too sensitive or paranoid        am I?       I don’t know - but I'm not a fool - and I've had enough people look at me that way (as if I were not a current member of the human race) to mistake it for a look of adoration or simple curiosity - it was one of unmasked disgust.

I touched my face with fingertips.

Do I have some physical characteristic that people can see that marks me as not of the herd? I'd spoken before to someone saying that those who don't fit into the herd are always recognized - even if the difference is beneath the skin Did I really believe that all the time?

I think that it's similar to gay-dar but more complex. I was suddenly dealing with someone looking to ostracize or judge on some superficial level. It was unnerving because I wasn’t sure if I was correct - I hate that kind of doubt because I couldn’t be sure if what I was feeling was legitimate. Perhaps there is no such thing as gay-dar. Maybe what allows someone to find someone like them is the same mechanism that most people use to locate those unlike them. Gay-dar just eliminates the "normies" (as we like to call them).

We met Bart at a far gate and he walked with us back to the mine. By the time we got there they had started boarding and almost no one was left outside. My stomach knotted at the prospect of flight and I steeled myself for the first leg of my trip to Atlanta. I gripped Stefanie’s hand miserably - so I can be clingy, big deal.

I said my goodbyes with a kiss for my wife and a huge hug for Bart, then presented my boarding pass and followed the line to the plane.

I hate going outside to board a plane. It’s too reminiscent of a bus - and I expect more from an airplane. I expect to walk down a long, windowless corridor, enter into the breezy door and cool cabin - with the quiet fans humming in the background- sit expectantly during the trip, then exit into a new windowless corridor to a new place, a new world a new time zone! I hate to fly; this is the only fantasy that keeps me getting on the God Damned things.

OK, too much to ask. I walked outside under intermittent sunshine and across some kind of fake grass carpet to the waiting gang-plank. I lugged myself up the stairs, almost fell, dropping the laptop case from my shoulder, and entered the noisy space. The fans wined pathetically, the people chattered like hens (I half expected to see eggs rolling along the center aisle), and my seat was just behind the glaring guy.

I avoided looking at him this time - I didn’t feel like fucking with this. I put my backpack in the overhead compartment and my ass in the seat by the window. I could see the expressions on his face through the space between the seats. This was just fucking great!

 

After I was seated, a group of veterans- on some kind of group outing to Las Vegas-exploded into the plane with a rapture of noise and laughter. A giant of a man sat beside me while the others spaced their portly asses around the front section of the plane. Just before they’d arrived I had removed my Journada and David Sedaris’ book, Naked, from my PC bag and was beginning to work hard at ignoring the asshole in front of me. Now, with the pack of jokesters cracking jokes about crashing planes - invading my fucking silence and spilling over the armrest- I was forced back into annoyed coherency. I hated them immediately and figured they were the type of guys who scratched their balls in the choir loft at church...

… but the noise calmed my off-kilter feelings and it was a nice distraction from -

I looked through the seat at - Mr. Glare. He was expressionless- good.

After ten minutes or so, the flight attendant stood in front of the first row and got everyone’s attention. She smiled pleasantly and joked a bit before telling us that the captain had asked that someone move from the front part of the plane to the back seat in order to balance the weight. Since it was only a short flight she didn’t see that it would be a problem.

I spoke up immediately. I had suddenly found a kind of rescue from Mr. Glare, my thought process- and the new development of the annoying gentlemen around me.

In response to my sacrifice, the jokesters mentioned that I should get a free ticket for moving. The flight attendant laughed and said, “ok, will do”.

I felt a little playful in my relief and my escape to the back and I chimed in with a loud Cartman style “kick - ass!” The jokesters laughed loudly at my outburst.

I felt glad that I could joke despite my feelings -

I felt better -
    - my eyes followed the line
                    - from the stewardess to
                                        -the back of the seat in front of me to
                                                                    -the break in the seat to
                                                                                                      -Mr. Glare.

and the disgusted, hateful look he shot between the seats at me.

My self-amused smile faded and I shoved my book and journada into my bag. I gritted my teeth and pushed out of my seat in a rush - leaving my backpack in the overhead for later. I stared down the rows of passengers and saw faces, facesfacesfaces and I couldn’t look at them at all now. Even though I knew many of them were smiling up me.

I focused on the back seat and tried to shake off my insecurity. Wasn’t the back of the plane the safest spot in a crash anyway? So if we crashed - at least the asshole would die first. I walked to the end of the plane and crawled into the window seat breathing a sigh of relief

that fucking look…

I wrote furiously once we were in the air. Of course, since I was using the fucking journada I couldn’t type worth shit. Imagine converting every key on your keyboard to the size of a tic-tac and then trying to type though turbulence      didn’t work well at all. I looked and felt like some studious Quazimoto hunched over my knees and trying type. I kept seeing "the thinker" statue with glasses and bad skin. That was me, sans the body being made out of marble. My body seems more like goat cheese and corn nuts.

Nothing that weekend before had conveyed as much simple communication as that one disdainful glare peeking between the seat in front of me... disgust at what?

I wrote more and then read more David Sedaris once I’d misspelled the word “f8ck” the 10,000th fucking time. I didn’t want to think of Mr. Glare any more but my brain kept pulling me back to that fucking look again I pondered it had I bothered this Mr. Glare somehow? Did I step on his toes when I walked into the plane?

I was determined not to let myself obsess over it - and I repeated this while re-reading the same paragraph at least twenty times.

Do I read too much into peoples’ expressions? Perhaps sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Was I crazy? Was I paranoid? Was I just ugly?

We made the bank into Midway airport in Chicago as I pondered the questions at least ten times apiece.

Midway airport is a dump. I fucking hate the place because it’s the most uncomfortable, gray, sleazy, barren airport I’ve ever fucking seen. I don’t need carpet, I don’t need lots of food courts or shopping I just fucking want some kind of display that tells me what airline is at what gate and where the fuck the planes are

I wandered toward the main concourse just before the security stand and stopped. I didn’t feel like going through security all over again so I walk to the two women in uniforms standing just inside the exit. I asked if the Airtran gates were in this area - they were - and back the direction I’d come. I thanked them, turned and started walking back to find the gate. I was looking down toward the end for the Airtran signs and I heard-

“Yea, that’s the guy I was talking about.”

I turned my attention to my left to see Mr. Glare walking next to some other fellow - they had faced my direction -

And if I’m not god damned, but they were looking directly at me… they meant me

I was the guy.

So it was confirmed. It wasn’t my imagination and I wasn’t crazy - this guy had somehow picked me out of the crowd in Columbus, disliked me on sight, and felt strongly enough about it to talk about me with his buddy. Wow, how was I supposed to feel about that?

The feeling I had was a combination of anger, relief and pride

I felt fucking great!

I looked hard at him this time, getting a good look. He was attractive, probably in his mid to early twenties, had short brown hair, an athletic build. He looked like an extra from a beer commercial. He was a typical, generic Frat boy type that was always nice to look at until they open their mouths and you got a good idea of just how dumb they really are.

I smirked. I am not like you. I stick out of the crowd as a freak - I don’t care- in fact, maybe it’s a good thing. I felt the weirdest damned sensation

I wanted to laugh.

We started to pass each and my smirk grew into a grin. I watched him as he passed me, and he watched me until I chuckled. His eyes swerved forward while his face reddened and hardened into some cute little Frat boy resolve.

I walked the rest of the way down the long strand of gates with that same stupid fucking grin on my face - and every face I met smiled back at me.


Next part - I think you are my favorite today. Is that ok?

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