October 16, 2013

A Plane to Catch

So, this is a personal essay/story that I submitted to TeenInk, an online publication of fiction and non-fiction of teenagers. This is from my Advanced English class, and I'd thought I would throw this up because I am proud of it, and more proud of the fact that this has gotten recognition from TeenInk's editors and that they had the niceties to publish such a work! Thank you to them and enjoy. If you want to see it on TeenInk, the link can be found here.

A Plane to Catch

The ice cold fragmented air, the long gusting of wind, and sharp needlework of falling snow was all but a picture from within the vehicle, blue and low riding, a sheen of ice coating the roof and water trickling down the windscreen. Inside, Luke was warm. Too warm, he thought, a sheen of sweat running the length of his face as he reacted to the blasts from the car’s heater, attempting to cool himself off while bundled in his many layers of jacket and sweater. He tore his gaze from the mesmerizing window to delve into the contents of his phone, the phone that he had received for his birthday last year. A sprinkle of music whistled into his ear from his headphones: a violin with a hint of backing base. He had wandered through countless songs prior to this one, Luke’s mood not in sync with what his phone had churned up for him to listen to, but this song was pleasant enough.

Keeping rhythm subconsciously, he waved his fingers about his phone’s display and opened up the text-messaging icon that served as his connection to his friends. The tether was already set to the one to whom he wanted to talk, and he typed in a quick reply to a half-day’s old question, and closed the application again, his mind racing with excitement. He did not know what to do with himself. He was late, he knew, and time seemed to mock his slow progress. This song will never do, he thought. After a few taps, he came to another one of his favorites (the violin replaced with trumpet and orchestra; a soothing melody), and his mood settled again. The car jerked to a stoplight, Luke’s body bouncing as the car’s suspension took him up and down in his seat.

The car ride dragged on. The sun was high though the clouds masked the brilliance of its light so that only a sliver could break through the storm. Luke stirred in his seat, shifting his weight so as to better distribute the pain that now coiled from his upper back. He had horrible back problems he knew. Hours of reading, typing, web searching, and violin playing had made him a rather hunched fellow when seated. The knot in his back loosened as he arched backwards.

A rattling in the back seat made his left ear (the one unoccupied with the music) perk up. The bottle is still there, he thought, his feelings running a quick loop around turmoil and annoyance before coming back to happy. The plastic water bottle had been with them since last week he remembered, and neither his mother nor he had bothered to dispose of it. Rattle, rattle, rattle, the bottle went, rolling back and forth along the floor mat, bumping into the back seat and the rear of the front. He would fix that once their destination was met, provided he could spare a hand with all his luggage plastered about the back seat.

Two hours prior, his mother had picked him up from school, having just gotten off work early to be able to do so. Luke himself had finished his exams early, and had taken to sitting by the fireplace with his friends. The fire was warm, he remembered, though then he had not had to contend with having five layers of clothes on at once, as he did now. His friends were all alive with excitement. As their exams were now over, they were free to roam the world as they saw fit, their destinations similar to his he suspected in terms of relation and reason. He, like all the rest, was to see his family this Christmas, and he had smiled longingly all through the first half of the day, beaming even when he had handed in his Geometry final, on which he knew he had scribbled incoherently if only to put pencil to paper. But neither the final exam nor the knowledge from the class (which he had sworn up and down to his mother that he knew all too well even though he knew none of it) mattered anymore. The holidays were now here, the burdens of school and student life eschewed in favor of celebration and family tidings.

The drive home had been full of talk. His mother wanted to know all about his final day of school for the semester, berating him with questions from how he felt about the exams of the day to how his friends were feeling that day. Luke would have none of it, however. He answered each query passively, his mind wandering to other places. What would his cousins be like? Would they have changed so much since his last visit six months ago? Probably not, he thought to himself. He did this every time he was to visit them. For a brief moment, his mind slipped back to school, where he began to question his answers to various Geometry problems on the test. Luke’s was a mind that could not leave well enough alone. Had he paid more attention to the information given over the course of the semester, he might have avoided such a haphazard performance. But there was nothing to do about that now. It would be three weeks before he would get that test back, he knew, and deliberating over it would not speed up such a lapse in time.

The car veered left, making the long freeway loop over to his house, the grey of the clouds making everything a dull pigment of the normal brightness on which his eye so often rested. Then Luke’s house came into view. The lawn is as much of a mess as my work on that Geometry test, he chided himself. His mother muttered as much, pulling the car into the driveway. The snow had gathered there heavily, and crunched under the weight of the car, thick and crackling. Upon his arrival, Luke hopped out of the car, running up the steps of the porch so as to reach and turn off the house alarm. Sprawled about the living room were several suitcases, a myriad of clothes, and some toiletries. Evidently his mother had not thought to pack the night before. She entered behind him, shoving past her son to reach the bathroom. This is a quick stop, hopefully.

Luke shouldered his pack, eyed the clothes warily before making his way down the hall, and entered his room. Luke’s room was where he brooded most of the time, though today his thoughts were bright and happy. The thought of reuniting with his cousins made him smile. His body danced around happily, his mind giddy with excitement. Then his mother called to him to help her pack, snapping him back to reality.

The packing had taken a good deal longer than expected. Entering the living room once more, Luke found himself staring at an even greater mess than before, if that were possible. His mother seemed to have several projects going on at once, though knowing her packing skills this seemed at odds with her normal execution of efficiency. Bewilderment played across his mother’s face as she looked up, motioning for him to help her pack. It was a rough job at best. Having wasted all the time that could be spared, he and his mother made their way with their belongings out to the car, shoving everything for their two-week long trip carelessly into the trunk and back seat, their panic evident in their motions alone. Luke had had time to pause his music, store his phone and headphones, and put on several sweaters and a jacket to combat the cold, though he had not thought about the fact that he would be in the car and then in the airport and then on a plane for the majority of the trip, and hardly making contact with the outside environment for any length of time.

He was regretting that now as they pulled into the On Time off-airport parking structure, the car’s wheels screeching along, his mother ordering a covered spot in a voice that brooked no small talk. Luke was sweltering as the car sped about the lot. They were sent down to Row F, squeezing between two large vehicles, the drivers of both having failed to park within their own space, so his mother had to first swear at nothing and then manage with maneuvering her car as best she could in between the two monsters. There would be hell to pay when they got back, Luke suspected; were the two trucks still there, it would be a challenge to back out, having parked so crookedly, but that would not be for another two weeks, and during that time, Luke’s attention would be solely devoted to his family, and of course to gifts. Let it never be said that I am without greed, he thought, his mouth tracing a thin smile about his face. He hoped they would make it on time. He checked his watch. They had a good forty-five minutes before boarding, though that meant little, since once the time had been spent at security, there would be little room for error. He took a moment to take out the bottle of the back seat, and held it awkwardly for a time before locating a trash receptacle. His music continued to blare in his head, and he smiled.

The van that would take them to the airport arrived moments later, pulling up with a hiss and spraying what little snow had stuck on the ground up into the air, showering Luke and his mother anew. Shaking the flakes out of his hair, Luke grabbed his suitcase, foisting it aboard the luggage rack and taking a window seat. There were several occupants already aboard. A balding man in a green raincoat, a grey-haired woman with a long black scarf about her neck whom Luke suspected of being the man’s wife, and their son with his great bushy beard, and granddaughter, who looked as excited as Luke felt, her eyes bright orbs of blue. They were all squished in the back of the van. Luke was grateful for the space, though rather puzzled that all of that family chose such close quarters. Luke nodded in their direction, his grin surely looking stupid to these strangers. His mother entered next, lumbering up the steps unevenly due to her bad knee.

And then the van was off. It was a bumpy and cumbersome ride, the snow making the driver cautious as ever, the van creeping along the road at what must have been two miles an hour. Luke was growing impatient. They were already late, and this slow vehicle was doing nothing to hasten their journey. He closed his eyes, calming himself, and was soon lost in thought and music, imagining all the great things he and his cousins would do once they were reunited. Conversation by text and call did not suffice for their conveying of information. So much to discuss, Luke thought. The Avengers, Ice and Fire, school, bitching about teachers! His thoughts made the time pass quickly, for when he next acknowledged the world at large, the van had stopped at the entrance to the airport, and Luke was beckoned by his mother to help her with their luggage. The family in the back of the van smiled as he looked in their direction, the granddaughter whispering something to the elderly man with the green coat.

The airport was a bustle of activity. Luke was herded along with the rest of the crowed, lugging his suitcase along while trying to keep a watchful eye on people whom the universe might employ to run him over, for that seemed to be a theme in his life. His music paused as he stored his headphones and phone in his backpack. Announcements of departures and arrivals ricocheted in his ears, the noise of half-heard conversations wafted over him, and the smell of activity was putrid and stale. Luke did not enjoy this hurtle of the journey.

Having gotten his ticket in a daze, Luke found himself at the security line, his mother fumbling with her purse and shoes. Luke took off his shoes as well, unlacing them hurriedly and grabbing the first bin that he saw and dumping all of his personals into it. Wallet, phone, headphones, jacket, sweater (too many layers, dammit), what else? Ah! His belt! He hated having to take off his belt. Ripping it about his waist, the black leather whipped about before he plunged it into the bin with the rest of his materials, all jumbled and unsorted; it made his OCD kick in if only for a time. The unloading of his backpack was next, though this was easier. Hoisting it up onto the conveyer belt, he unzipped the backmost zipper hurriedly, snatching the laptop from within and dropping it lazily into its own bin, per the ridiculous protocol. He abandoned his material and stepped in line to be X-rayed and poked and prodded and shouted at and whatever else they did while he stood within that claustrophobic tube.

Stepping out of the tube, he retrieved his things, put on his shoes, weaved his belt around himself again and grabbed his laptop, then waited patiently as his mother followed suit. Their gate was B25, and their timetable was not looking kind now. There were only minutes left before their plane began boarding, and with his mother’s limp, his lazy legs, heavy backpack and both having to contend with a suitcase each (having checked the other two), there would be no time to lose. Luke found himself whisked along at a brisk walk, his mother keeping up as best she could. Move, legs! Move! he thought.

They moved.

Out of breath, he spied the gate number and made a dash toward it, suitcase and various coats and sweaters billowing behind him. His mother had a face as red as a tomato, her mouth making a great O as she panted up to the ticket counter. Following her motions, Luke handed his ticket clumsily to the man who manned the desk, who smiled and handed it back, the red light flashing green to permit Luke passage. He was in! Delusions of missing the flight cast aside, he made his way to a middle seat, his mother taking the window.

He was on! Relief spilled over him as he settled into the seat that was oh-so-close to being comfortable, the cushion a flat plaster of mush beneath him. The trip would be long, but they had made it. Luke’s smile came back. He pulled out his headphones and phone and made the music sing in his ears again, the orchestra swelling like the ocean. Luke closed his eyes and dreamt of snow.

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