Escalators have always fascinated me. I am drawn forward with those straight lines into the distance at the top, going up in a never ending loop to an unseen horizon. Natalie and I are riding this together today. Unlike the countless times I have ridden this exact escalator by myself. Not today. Today, we join our destinies together at the top of the escalator, at the beginning of our ride.
My attention is drawn to the imagined world beneath the escalator. I can imagine a vast underground cavern with stalactites and stalagmites between the cogs and gears running an unseen engine, grease dripping from the walls. Sometimes I can see no machinery at all, only the cavern with a stream running through to power us all to the top. It’s the unrelenting continuity of an escalator. I have ridden this escalator and each time the world I create expands to include an ever changing expression of what I believe at the time.
My attention is drawn down, I am sure that Natalie has never given a second thought to the world beneath her feet. Frankly, much of the world is beneath her feet. I see her looking outward and upward; twittering to and fro to catch the bees of gossip on the wind. She is light and she is air, so slight that her feet barely touch the ground. Her beautiful red pumps balance precariously on each of the escalator ridges. This is not a skill I have mastered.
In front and above us, unmoving, blocking Natalie’s forward momentum, is a mother and small child. She is grasping her son’s hand tightly while she holds: hand bag, carry on, stroller. A mule loaded down for the trip to grandma’s. My load is light; I never feel the need to pack more than the one pair of shoes I am wearing. My shoes are flexible and sensible, they can go anywhere with me on our trip.
Waiting as Natalie checked her luggage, and drew attention to us with complaints of increased security and charges for overweight bags. The petite desk clerk, Cheryl, is business-like with her efficiency. Strikingly short hair for a woman lets the viewer know she is a no-nonsense woman. Not caring, she’s been here before, heard these complaints. “Ma’am the weight limit is 50 pounds and two bags. It is our policy.”
Conceding, graciousness difficult at the best of times, Natalie fills out the address cards with her new address and ties it to the bag’s handle. This tag takes up residency with four other past addresses that have yet to be discarded. Addresses and homes are disposable when unwanted. Leaving garbage out front with memories at residences she’s already forgotten. Checking my carry-on gives me the freedom of carrying nothing down the gang plank and nothing to get stuck in the escalator carousel.
The mother unloads with great clashing and rolling. Losing bits and pieces of her portage as she maneuvers onto the second floor corridor. Business men rush past on either side of her, watching as the child screams. Indignant looks: how dare she ruin my vacation/business trip/holiday. We stop to help, I can’t not. I understand what it is to be a woman alone with responsibilities. Her look is suspicious but grateful when I hang her carry on off the back of the stroller and she loads in the little boy.
In this time, Natalie and I have shared no looks. No engaging, “we are friends” or “we know what the other is thinking” looks. Her thoughts are her own, she does not share them with glances and suggestions to come and enjoy her companionship. She is a light, she turns on and off at the flick of a switch, now no light is needed, no switch is flipped. We flow together, wordless after our time together.
Wordless in a brutally loud place. The lights are loud, the linoleum tiles are loud, the people loud like the rushing of water through a faucet. As this rush of people draws us to our gate, we sit and wait. Any words now a dive that neither of us can recover from. Our trip home looms when finally the plane whisks, beats, chops us to our destination. No games to pass the time, I already know. I’ve been told that she does not play games on the plane; she falls fast asleep while I stare, eyes wide.
In the cab, Natalie flashes on like the bright light she can be. Talk turns to the mundane, discussions about how it has grown up since the last time we were here. New Wal Marts and Burger Kings. Chipper conversations, of change and progress. Natalie is bee-like, her feet never touching the ground. Flitting and flirting with anything bright and shiny. Never to stay and put down roots, roots that bind you to this place, this here and now.
This morning as I was readying for our trip