Friday, December 27, 2013

On Airport Fashion

She had seen this face so many times. So many travelers had worn it. Like any look, some wore it better than others, but the raw elements were all the same. The eyes were sleepy but defensive, as if daring anyone to acknowledge their appearance at all. Nostrils slightly flared; not enough to be immediately noticeable. The mouth a grim line, with just a hint of a snarl now and then. There were always lines around the mouth, ghosts of smiles that had not been freed from their cages for the better part of the last 24 hours. The skin of this face was blotchy and red in the cheeks - but not a hint of the rosy glow of cosmetics to be found. The men wore a sprinkling of uneven stubble across their faces as if it had been an afterthought just barely remembered before leaving the house yesterday - or was that today? The women kept their hair pulled back haphazardly. Every so often they would make some gesture as if to somehow transform it into something more reminiscent of a hairstyle, but the commitment to following through was lacking. 
The uniform of this individual was functional at best, and rarely met the standards even of this adjective. Closer to something one would wear to bed after sitting dejectedly on the couch alone all evening eating junk food and reminiscing about past mistakes, this outfit rarely made appearances into the real world. And yet this subculture prowled around airports in presumably week-old sweatpants and bland hoodies speckled with coffee stains that the wearer occasionally made a small show of noticing, for the sixth time since putting it on, to hopefully help their observers to imagine that maybe there were times when they were not so shameless.

Yes, she had seen this face countless times in countless airports, but never, until this moment, on her own reflection.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Maritime Inelegance

Today I was at the beach. I'm on vacation, and with vacation comes a certain sense of invincibility. So, when I happened to end up sharing the waves with a group of surfers, I felt certain that if I played my cards right, one of them would teach me how to surf by the end of the day.
The execution of this plan was more difficult.
So instead I played in the water with my younger cousins, in my shirt that I've had to wear ever since I became badly sunburned on day 1 of this trip.
I was there with 5 cousins, and we had 2 boogie boards to share among all of us. In a perfect world, we all would have gotten even turns. But it's not, and so the youngests had a monopoly on the boards for the majority of the day and those of us who are more advanced in age had to take what we could get.
Then, a stroke of luck!
I came into possession of a board - that Styrofoam slab that would make these waves really worthwhile (especially for someone who is deficient in body-surfing skills, like myself). To my dismay, however, my particular flotation device was the same one that had broken in half earlier and was currently held together by naught but its canvas casing. Nevertheless, I trekked out into the water, doing my utmost to stay vertical despite the tumultuous waves and their efforts to thwart me. Eventually I made it past the breakers, and began waiting around for The Wave that would take me the farthest.
As I was moseying around, carefully studying the nearby surfers the water, Fortune decided to once again smile upon me: a certain grommet happened to catch a wave that landed him relatively close to me. He was exactly your stereotypical beach guy: tan, with blonde, shoulder-length hair that gleamed in the light of the impending sunset. He looked like he knew what he was doing. I mean, he was wearing a wetsuit and he had a surf board.
He looked over at me and smiled (perfectly white teeth, by the way). I recognized this as my moment to strike up a conversation. I yelled over, in my most approachable vocal tone, "Are these good waves for surfing, or is the water too rough?"
He tossed his hair out of his face and replied, "They're okay. A little small, though."
He had walked straight into Phase 2 of my plan: a silly little joke. (That is Phase 2 in every single one of my plans.)
"Oh, I see," I said, "but it's good for boogie boarding, right?" And, to complete the effect, I shook my board in the air as I threw my head back slightly and laughed briefly.
He answered me, I think, with something like "Oh, yeah, it's perfect for that!" but I was distracted because, you see, in all my merriment and mirth, I had taken my concentration from the waves and during our short exchange, that ruthless beast called Ocean had reared her ferocious head and sent her wrath in my direction. In short, a wave caught me off guard and swept me off my feet, tumbling me this way and that. I had just enough time to utter a bark-like scream and grasp my little board for dear life before I went under.
When I returned to the surface, I had been relocated by several yards. My 'friend' was mid-laugh, with just a hint of concern thrown in, forming a deadly concoction of embarrassment for yours truly. I laughed it off as best I could, but he and I both knew that our relationship could never be repaired.
As he made his way to the shore and his friends, I hopped back on my board and began to once more paddle out.
The ocean is the place for me, anyway. The ocean understands me. The ocean loves me. The ocean just doesn't want me to see other people.