Newly polished shoes, he sits there drinking his 5 o’clock beer next to the family of four eating breakfast. Two strangers share an intimate conversation over coffee. The woman in the red heels nervously fixes her hair in a hand-held mirror. Probably off to see a love interest. There’s a girl crying just outside the restaurant. Minimal effort at concealing the tears. Leaving something behind. Family? Friends? Love? Herself?
There’s something about airports that makes them a concentrated microcosm of human experience. People are either leaving something behind or going towards something or, often, both. Excitement, dread, joy, sorrow, anxiety, banality- all of these coexist in the context of overpriced water and kitschy souvenirs. Somewhere in this world, there’s a girl who knows more about me than some of my friends do because we shared a 9 hour layover in the New Delhi airport. Her name’s been long-wiped from my memory, her face is a blur, her hair could’ve been blonde or not, but her story, her feelings at the time- these I remember with vivid detail. The same level of detail with which I can recount a conversation over wine with a man who would slip in an out of life randomly, purely by happenstance, for years until finally one day, he called my name at an airport. Both waiting on delayed flights going in opposite directions, we swapped our vastly different feelings about a shared sadness we’d both experienced in our own ways. A sadness we’d both been dealing with throughout all those chance run-ins and late-night sing-alongs. A sadness that had never been revealed until the airport effect washed away standard conversation decorum and left in its wake, something raw and emotionally unfiltered.
And then there’s today.
In some ways, it’s appropriate- even poetic- that my drawn-out breakup culminated in an airport goodbye. It’s interesting to me that the very thing I was trying to get away from by embracing the relationship at the start, is the same thing I’m going towards after entangling myself in a web of feelings and expectations and shared experience. It’s difficult and painful to extract yourself from another person’s world, especially when you can see and feel how it might be hurting them, but the trust you have to have in yourself to know that the disentanglement is necessary, can be a powerfully grounding force. Our intertwined worlds gave us both (I hope) greater vision and a more robust understanding of the world we want to exist in. Not only did I get to share my world and experience someone else’s, which is always a gift, but through it, I also learned myself better. My decision-making feels more firm. My lifestyle, more purposeful. My values, more clear. Despite the headache I have from being the girl crying outside the restaurant, I would do it all over again because it’s become a part of the person I’m working towards being. At first, I was hoping to avoid feeling the hurt that comes with a breakup, but now… Now, I’m happy to feel it. I’m happy to know that my time was spent well, that it mattered, and that because of it, I will be better. And hopefully, he feels the same.