Friday, December 20, 2013
I had already reached the end of the possible within the admittedly not-sufficiently capacious me, when I learned that I would be heading out of town for a one-day business trip. I was to be on a plane by 7 AM and in a new city by 9:30, ready to go, to take notes, to consult, to be a grown-up. Wise. Calm. Helpful. The named day (yesterday) dawned dark and cold.
I hadn't slept.
By 4:45 AM, I was scraping recalcitrant ice from the car; it wouldn't budge; my vision would be periscoped. By 5:00, I was at the gas station, my hands glued to the pump by ice crystals. The gas pump clunked and rattled. No gas flowed. At another icy pump, I began again.
By the time I reached the airport, I found myself in the company of a surprising number of early risers. By the time I got through security, I had to run—all the way through the airport and down to the shuttle bus, which would take me to the F terminal, from which my little plane was scheduled to ascend. I made it in time. I sat down in a slump. I could not find my keys.
You know that rising panic. That dump-everything-out-of-your-bags-and-your-pockets panic. That thing you do in which you mentally retrace every step and begin to imagine terrible things. That was me. The rising panic in the woman who was already gone. The woman who was supposed to be collected, calm, and strong.
I made the calls, I talked to security, I did what could be done. And then I paced up and down the terminal, for the little plane was late. It was then that I saw my friend Julie Diana, a principal dancer of the Pennsylvania Ballet, in an airport display, and just seeing her, just remembering her beauty and her grace, was the thing that calmed me down.
When the tiny plane showed up and we boarded, a kid in a knitted cap sat beside me. An architecture student from Harvard, headed home, he said. We began to talk as the plane filled. I began to move things around. And from who knows which pocket, which hidden place, which silent-during-the-panic cove, those lost keys rained down.
I looked at the student and made some kind of wooting sound. He looked at me and smiled. "I bet you think you're sitting next to a crazy woman," I said.
"You're doing pretty well," he said, "for someone who thought she lost her keys."