Flying Bathroom

Sometimes you date your opposite. This is common enough. My parents are opposites. My mom the talker; my dad not. This woman I dated was a lot like my mother, which normally would repel me but since she was married and said she wasn’t leaving her husband, in that way, I was interested; there was an obstacle.

On our second date, besides telling me her husband was sad because she was with me and he was allowing it but she and I weren’t allowed to touch, she showed up wearing a gum-green knit hat over her purple hair and I showed up wearing all black. When I compared us to Batman and the Joker, she loved it. I mean so did I. It worked. She was a laugher, loud, and smarter than you’d think under all her goofiness. And our ongoing joke was, Who's crazier? The raving lunatic or the guy dressed up as a bat?

During our courtship, I flew down to New Orleans to help a friend whose partner just died. A 39-year relationship. Over. They were opposites, too. In fact, I really didn’t want to look at how much my friend and his deceased partner were similar to my lover-hopeful and her husband. Because though she and I were opposites, we didn’t balance each other out; we set each other on fire.

She, the Joker, loved airports and flew out of town almost every weekend. On the flight back out of New Orleans, she told me—insisted—I high-five myself in the bathroom mirror. She said there’s nothing better than flying at whatever miles per hour planes fly at while giving yourself a high-five, looking yourself in the mirror, and going, Fuck yeah!

I did not comply. I did not scratch her itch. She got a lot of joy out of airports that I didn’t understand. Or maybe it wasn’t joy. And maybe I did understand. She liked watching people lose their shit, their petulance about bags and long lines and food, etc. She enjoyed that particular kind of people-watching at airports. It amused her.

A year later, when we were long over but I wasn’t over her at all, I was flying down to New Orleans once more to go be with my friend. His finances were in tatters, the mourning had grown worse, and he kept asking me to visit so I did.

The flight down was miserable. I was in a middle seat and the guy behind me was tall and jabbing me with his knees, and I was thinking about how the Joker woman would laugh at me, yet another inconvenienced asshole on a plane and I had to pee but I dreaded going into the bathroom. Still, there was this idea that I was supposed to high-five myself.

On that day, I was pleasantly surprised. It was almost like I watched myself go boneless, soften, fall apart. What I saw looked honest. It felt, in a way, a bit like a high-five because I liked what I saw in the mirror: just a tired guy. You have to act like a cardboard cutout all day in airports, showing no emotion, being compliant, and I’m sure the Joker would have sniffed out my poor performance and laughed had she been people-watching me. But that was the thing: no one was watching me. For the first time in the day, I was alone and could finally let my defenses down, getting the tiniest break from wearing a mask.


Categories: Airports, Trips

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