Strangers and Wildhearts
The ground below flowed into one continuous quilt of creation. Three miles above land makes everything sharper in my mind, the blurriness and uncertainty of the shapes beneath bringing clarity to the thoughts tumbling in my head. The ground rippled below, pulling away like a bandage, bearing my heart open. The plane was filled with gentle voices and the sound of a mother comforting her child. The couple beside me stirred and spoke to each other under their breath. My forehead pressed against the glass, I stared through my reflection as though it was the past. Just a memory, just a feeling. My eyes locking glances with each other, stuck on golden, yellowed memories. The glass was hot against my skin, but my fingers felt frosty. I pulled them inside my sleeves, tried to focus on drying the tears that pooled in my eyes, stilling the silent sobs that shook my chest and shoulders. A hand pressed my shoulder gently, I could feel the warmth through my thin sweater I had pulled around me, though the Arizona sun was still stuck to the metal and the glass. I wiped my face with my sleeve and turned, trying to conceal my tear stained cheeks and the redness of my eyes. “Would you like to share our chips, sweetheart?” This well prepared traveler said, her grey hair in short, loose curls. A string of beads at her throat, tones of earth in her clothes. Her husband, I presume, looked over—wide eyed, concerned. I could easily imagine him nudging his wife, “Darling, help that poor girl.” She offered potato chips like comfort, a helpless hand to a stranger. Daring to do the uncomfortable and get into the broken space of a stranger. A wobbly smile struggled to meet my face, “No, but thank you so much. I’ll be okay.” They offered soft faces, perhaps I looked like a daughter to them. Or maybe I was simply a daughter of humanity, with a livid face and eyes steeped in sadness, with a strange mix of joy in my memories.
It was the great crescendo to the day filled with rushing, of shoving down feelings just to make it through, just to make it home. I had hugged my best friend goodbye in the early night. The moon was still raw in the sky and I felt another part of my heart be lost to another place, another people, another time. I hang my heart up like a hat at the door of many homes. It leaves pieces of itself wherever I roam. I never knew what it was to love and to be loved until I carved a piece from myself and called it free. Leaving California, my heart was sad, but full and satisfied. Then came landing back in Arizona, and almost missing my flight and I unraveled. 20 minutes to boarding time and my terminal was empty. I found someone to ask. “Who sent you here? You belong two terminals over. You’ll have to go outside those doors, take the train and walk outside to the right one.” I turned white, I felt green, I thanked her, I grabbed my things. I ran. I couldn’t figure out which train took me to my terminal, I called my mom and wept as the minutes clicked down and I realized just how greatly I had messed up. An elderly couple watched me from a distance. I could feel the sweat pouring down my back and I thought, “why the hell did I think wearing a white t-shirt would be a good idea… in Arizona?” The man walked over to me, he smiled “If you follow my wife and I, I think we’re going in the same direction you are. Don’t worry, you’ll be okay.” The kindness of strangers never fails to amaze me.
The twelve o’clock heat slapped me clean in the face the minute I walked outside. “The terminal is just right there.” They had told me, but that “right there” didn’t account for the 110 degrees and the two small, but very heavy bags I had thrown over my shoulders and hitting at the back of my knees when I ran. I had my phone in a death grip and I finally reached the other side. The terminal was practically empty, with only a handful of TSA agents cracking their gum and trying to seem like there was something to be busy about. My plane finished boarding in 5 minutes, they said my bags seemed strange and they’d have to check them out. I laughed, and my tears overflowed. I could taste the blood on my lips where I had bitten them to still the quivering. I could see my gate from where I stood, and there was no one standing there. A security guard stood quietly in front of me, she watched me with even eyes and finally asked “Are you alright?” I shook my head, “no, I just want to go home. Everything is going wrong and I just want to go home.” She stepped out of her space and into mine, “May I hug you?” She asked, and then pulled me close like I was someone she cared for and loved, “You’re going to be alright, you hear me? You’re going to walk out of this door and run for your life, and you’re going to make it because you’ve already made it this far, you got it?” She pushed me back and smiled, her dark eyes were full of warmth and kindness. “Now, look at that, they’re all done. Grab your bags, and book it, girl! You got this!” I felt myself pull back together, I squared my shoulders, and smiled.
I have a bit of a wildheart. I see it in my reflection, hungry eyes and faraway looks. Calling me to places I have never been and people I have never seen. Dare to be extraordinary. I hear it in the whispering of the winds and the quiet of the meadows. The heart is restless, it’s untamed, the preverbal stallion no man has ever seen. I have family, not by blood, in people whom I had never held, who had never held me. Yet our words were true, they stood by our sides when we physically could not for one another. Leaving felt like ripping out my soul with a clever, and leaving it, still restless on the floor. And so I cried, through two airports, two planes, and over many states until I found home. I listened to Josh Garrels’ Ulysses at least 6 times ad each time found another lyric to tear me to shreds. Most plane trips are filled with journaling, or studying my bible, or chatting with my single-serving friend about the deepest things you rarely talk to your long-term friends about. But it was different this time, two weeks of the change of others brought more change from me than I would have ever conceived.
The kindness of strangers is the most impactful thing I remember from traveling. I don’t know the names of these people, I don’t know their stories, and they don't know mine. I remember their faces in vivid detail, but don’t ask me to tell you what they looked like. They showed a scared, sad, lost girl, a little piece of Jesus, whether they knew it or not. It’s taken me a few months just to realize how important they were to me, and how I never want to forget their faces, or hands, the way her arms wrapped around this strangers shoulders and told me to chin up. I still don’t know who I want to be when I grow up, but I hope that it looks a little bit like you.