04 July 2009

Strangers At 33,000 Feet; Where Friends Are

Today, on Flight 745 from La Guardia to Denver International, I wrote the following in the notebook I keep in my purse:

Today I am on a plane, in a window seat. A young couple who are lovers of some sort but complete strangers to me are dozing off to my right.

This plane is full of strangers. It's flying over country where I've never set foot, and possibly never will. We're about two hours into a four-and-a-half-hour flight, so I'm guessing that I'm somewhere around Chicago, or more precisely, 33,000 feet over somewhere arouond Chicago.

When this plane lands, I will be in Denver: another place in which I've never set foot. I will scarcely know anything more about it than I know now, for I will not leave the airport. About an hour after this plane lands, I will take another flight in a much smaller plane to a much smaller town--where I have also never set foot.

About Colorado Springs, my destination for today, I know the following: It is the home of the US Air Force Academy. It's also the home of a couple of military bases, the US Olympic training facility, a few right-wing Christian organizations and Colorado Cyclist.

About Colorado Cyclist: I've never been there, but I've ordred from them, on-line ond over the phone. There was a time, about ten years ago, when it seemed that any time I ordered from them, I was buying French bike parts: Mavic wheels, Michelin tires, Look pedals. Colorado Cyclist always seemed to have the best deals on the previous year's models, which may not have been practically different from the current year's models. In fact, the previous year's models always seemed to come in some color or have some other feature that made me prefer it to the newer version.

Then there was the Air Force Academy: My father wanted so much for me to go there. In fact, it was just about the last place where I wanted to go to school. First of all, as angry and hostile as I was, I wanted no part of the military. And I had no interest in flying: I think I may have been the only one in my school who felt that way.

It's ironic that now, I am on the flight my father hoped I would take shortly after I graduated from high school. Of course, my purpose for taking this flight isn't what he had in mind.

Even if I'd taken this flight all of those years ago, one outcome would have been the same: I would have been flying with people I never knew and never would know to a place in which I'd never set foot and knew no-one. And, of course, I'd be over a country I'd never seen, thirty thousand feet over it.

I won't get to know Colorado Springs much better than I'll get to know Denver. I'll spend tonight in Colorado Springs; tomorrow, Robin--Dr. Bowers' office manager--will pick me up there. Then I'll be on my way to Trinidad for the very thing I've wanted for as long as I can remember.

Had I taken this trip upon my high-school graduation, as my father wanted, a bunch of guys would have tried to transform me. Into what? A guy like them: A guy who's convinced that he can transform anyone who walks through the gates of the Academy--by invitation, by acceptance, of course--into someone just like him.

I wonder whether they could have suceeded with me. After all, I was young and certainly more malleable--though I thought myself more immutable and incorrigible--than I am now. And I was a good student and something of an athlete.

Had I gone to the Air Force Academy, I suspect thatin one way, my life would have been exactly the same as it was until a few years ago: I would have been around lots and lots of people, but I would have come away knowing none, or very, very few of them. And they wouldn't have known me.

Now I am going to embrace my self, as I am, by doing something I've always wanted and needed to do. Last night, I joked with Millie, John and Lisa that I'm going to meet the love of my life, and that person will be from China, South America or some other far-away place.

Why not? I suspect that most of the people who go to Dr. Bowers are going for reasons like mine. At least we'll have something in common: what we've always wanted from our lives.

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