08:30. Bright and early I stagger bleary-eyed into the airport. Sober but exhausted, it’s all part of the plan. I’ve intentionally fucked my sleep schedule just enough to make me slow and sluggish, but not so much as to make me cranky and on edge. I’ve got an important package that needs to make it discretely to the left coast ASAP. One of the things that makes me a damn fine transporter is my ability to put things out of my mind and just go about my business. So today I’m dressed like a normal, middle-aged, middle-class passenger on his way to Reno for vacation, and that’s the way I act because why I’m really hear, hardly even crosses my mind.
“Sir, can you step out of line, please.”
Another thing that makes me good at this job – sure, some might call it smuggling – is that I’m good under pressure, which has less to do with my “nerves of steel” and more to do with an unhealthy amount of optimism. Sure, some might call it denial, but I’m just not the worrying type. My last words will probably be something like, “Ah, It’ll all work out fine.” So when I was separated from the herd I was still thinking, “I’m sure this is nothing.” Then I heard the contents of my bag get dumped out on the metal counter. And though I have no idea how airport security works, I was still confident it couldn’t have anything to do with the softball sized knot of off-white powder that was sealed in the zip-lock bag and wrapped in festival costumes. That was in the luggage that was to be loaded under the airplane, they couldn’t have found it yet, could they?
Fun fact about air travel #1: Airport search dogs probably aren’t anything like you’re picturing, at least they’re not anything like I’d imagined. They’re not german shepherds, or doberman pinchers, or anything along those lines, they’re beagles. Yup, just like Snoopy. Apparently so many people are bugged-out about flying, the powers-that-be wanted the least threatening dogs they could find. And for the same reason, if the pooches smell anything on someone they don’t go over and start barking and snarling, they just go and sit by their feet.
“Got it.” said the Security man that was rooting through my stuff.
The thing about optimism is that even if the pessimists are right, and it’s all going to end in a terrible, meaningless, shit-storm – at least the optimists can have a good time until it does. Pessimists ruin all the possible fun they could have up until it all goes down in flames. Not to mention, what if it really does all end up being ok?
Fun fact about air travel #2: One thing Airports have been catching a lot of people with lately, are baterangs. That’s right, sharpened shuriken in the shape of a bat symbol. Yeah, it surprised me too. I blame all the violent movies the kids are watching these days. If I’d know this I’d have put my yellow utility-belt, with the metal bat symbol belt buckle, in a checked bag. Fortunately though, I try to avoid wearing sharp blades that close to my divining rod, and my buckle was blunt enough to pass.
11:25 and I’m folded sloppily into a vertical fetal position. The man in the seat in front of me hates me and wishes I’d just die. He has a bad spine, he tells me, and can’t tolerate any touching of the back of his seat. He really should’ve gotten one in the last row so he wouldn’t have to worry about a lanky motherfucker like me sitting behind him. In theory, the window gets to lean up against the wall and sleep, the aisle gets the extra legroom, and the middle gets eminent domain over both armrests, and all seats are awful. The person to my left is sleeping on me, bending me into the aisle. People keep smacking into me on their ways to and from the shitter, knocking me into “my friend” in the seat ahead of me. Finally, an hour and a half late we take off, and the infant and his tiny little ears in a nearby seat gets to experience, and react to, the change in cabin pressure for the very first time. So the usual; but none of that matters. The only important thing now is that we’re through security and in the air, and that little gray-white bundle is safe under the plane. Swaddled in those ridiculous clothes is a pretty little puzzle box, inside that is a ziplock, inside that baggie are the ashes of my once so vibrant friend, and we’re on our way to her virgin burn.
Naturally, there are rules and health codes about the proper way one is supposed to transport their loved ones cremated remains – we even looked them up. As is often the case, the correct way of doing things like this involves a whole lot of explaining, and talking to strangers. And any individual we spoke to along the way could have the potential of being the monkey-wrench in our plan, and we’re on a deadline. So as my old boss once told be, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness then permission – and I like to think he did eventually forgive me, after all, he did convince the higher-ups to let me resign instead of being fired.
17:15 Mountain Time. Unlike most, I love layovers. They give me a chance to stretch my gangly legs, go window shopping, and people watch. I always make sure I’m tired enough to sleep on the plane, it keeps the strangers from trying to make smalltalk, so layovers are my time to reflect on my journeys – over a drink or three. Anyone who’s ever traveled with me knows that airport bars are one of my favorite things about this life. They open bright and early, and since everyone is on their own bizarre travel schedule, no one thinks twice about you having a drink with your mourning coffee. Sure they’re expensive, but because so many people freak-out about flying the barkeeps are usually heavy handed. Sitting there you get to watch people preparing to launch themselves all over the globe, and listen to languages you not only don’t know, but can’t even identify – all while you’re either on your way to, or coming from, some story.
Even if her corpse wasn’t just dust in luggage, jetsetting out to the Big Burn would’ve probably brought my thoughts back to my dear old dead friend. Our paths always seemed to cross during adventures like this; parties, festivals, wandering countries where we only knew a handful of words in their language. I’m sorry always being the first we learned. Fun and fancy free times full of music and dancing, drinking and drugs, and beautifully orchestrated insanity. Happy to be young and alive; carefree, fearless, careless, and reckless. But obviously no one is happy-go-lucky all the time, nor is anyone’s life just a nonstop party. Our depths get muddled, and complicated, and confused – or maybe it’s just us that do. I can only assume she must’ve, since she felt the need to end her own life.