It takes us a couple of days to realize that our new house sits along the flight path of our local airport. It’s mostly smaller, private planes that use this runway, but still, we regularly hear jets rev their engines or slow as they take off and approach from the East. At times there is an almost imperceptible down-draft—leaves move slightly, the air shudders—that one was close.
We can’t hear any car traffic from our neighborhood, but in the summer, when the windows are open at night, we drift off to the sounds of flight. When I can’t sleep, I imagine the people on the planes, heading home after a weekend at the beach, or to New York City for business, or to Philadelphia to catch a connecting flight to some exotic destination. I think about the people at the airports—either waiting in anticipation, checking the arrival board, longing for that first sight, first hug, first kiss. And I think about the people at the departure point—the ones who just said good bye. The ones who ache. The ones who move forward on the ground, tethered by gravity.
It’s the middle of the night when I land in Amsterdam. Well, it’s the middle of the night for my body and my brain.
But here—here everyone is awake. There are shiny stores and people who put on perfume and make-up this morning and packed bags and have flights to catch. There are planes getting ready to take off to Cyprus and Stockholm and Beijing. Others, like my plane, are slowly pulling up to gates after their long, overnight slog across the Atlantic.
There are fragrant cafes and the click-clack of heels on marble and the low-hum of rolling suitcases and children squealing for their mothers and for rest and men in business suits speaking French on fancy phones and women in saris and women in business suits or tight jeans and women with long, flowing hair.
It’s comforting to know that while I was trying to sleep in a flying metal tube, while I was in limbo across continents, over a large, dark body of water, all of this activity was going on somewhere in the world. People were awake and living and moving.