Well, I’ve gone and graduated.
I wore a tie and Uji told me I looked like “Hot Albert Nobbs.”
I had about two weeks where family took up the majority of my time celebrating my victory over college and demanding to know what I was planning on next.
The answer, officially, was a year of work in a hopefully relevant field and then grad school if I can find someone to pay my way.
The unofficial answer is all of that stuff and a vacation, damn it.
So I asked to go to Texas.
Not because this is the ideal vacation spot. Far from it, actually; it’s a hundred degrees at night, central Texas is in a constant state of drought, and what little rainwater my mother has saved has mosquito larvae and drowned red wasps in it.
But my family is here, and I haven’t seen most of them in a year and a half.
Also, it’s 800 miles away from the passive aggressive bullshit that is the hallmark of Pacific Northwest behavior (and the root of so much culture shock that I will never actually assimilate to my adopted homeland–for fear that if I did, I would start wearing wool socks with sandals, driving a Subaru, wearing yoga pants to formal functions (like funerals. I shit you not, I have seen this) and abandoning all semblance of good taste along with my considerable cojones.
It does, however, mean getting on an airplane. When I was a kid, this wasn’t so bad. You went through a metal detector, packed a water bottle so you didn’t die of thirst, you brought two or three books and drawing paper, and you listened to the shitty music stations, occasionally running across some gem like “The Pines of Rome” that would catch up to you later in life. In fact, the worst thing that ever happened to you as a kid was having to talk to strangers who were old because you were stuck with them for four hours and for some reason the “Children shouldn’t talk to strangers” rule means nothing to anyone in the air.
Nowadays, if you can find somebody’s Gramma to talk to, it’s like the highlight of the trip.
The metal detector is now a huge ordeal, in which there are Calvinball-style rules about liquids that change every damn six months even though TO DATE, NOBODY HAS SUCCEEDED IN BLOWING UP AN AIRPLANE WITH A SEALED BOTTLE OF WATER OR HALF A FRAPPUCINO. I know I’m not the only one to rant about this. Everybody rants about this. In spite of the volume of complaints, TSA is not equipped with a formulaic response, but instead offers incentives to its employees for extra rudeness and stupidity. (I can’t actually back that up, but seriously, when someone treats me like a criminal for having a sealed bottle of water–which was perfectly legal a year and a half ago– I can only assume that their common sense has been overridden by some job requirement. Really, though, I think TSA is just a bunch of jumped-up meter maids.)
That nonsense aside, the shitty music has been replaced by shitty TV. Which means that the most entertaining thing to do on the plane is to talk to the Gramma next to you.
My seatmates were some guy in his fifties doing TPS reports (seriously! They’re a thing! They just have nothing to do with the Y2K switchover. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about,YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!)
and an Abuela from Guatemala whose name was Anastasia. She spoke no English, I barely speak Spanish, and what little I speak is impeded by a severe embarrassment at the fact that I am not as proficient in my second language as I am in my third or even my fourth, because I’ve neglected it for ten years.
Also, La Anastasia spoke a dialect I’ve heard maybe once.
We became friends.
Awkward, awkward friends with a generation gap of about fifty years, a language gap, and a cultural gap. We both prayed when the plane took off and landed, we both thought the air was dirty over Houston, and we were both going back to families.
Lunch was macaroni that I brought with me on the plane (that I got for free because it took half an hour to make and my waiter was rad. It was the Kraft kind, so don’t get too excited.) and a little box of Asian noodle salad (whatever the hell THAT means! Asia is a continent, United Airlines! There’s like, a buttload of noodle types! Just say soba noodles with sesame oil and soy sauce that got tossed with raw red cabbage and green onions.) that I bought for Anastasia because the last time I was on a flight, the Gramma sitting next to me bought me a drink.
I had coffee and kahlua, thinking that I could stave off a caffeine headache and get drunk in one fell swoop. This was a mistake. Not only was the coffee your typical airplane shitwater, but somehow, ADDING BOOZE MADE IT WORSE!
This horrible concoction did terrible things to my bowels later on.
At the time, though, it gave me enough Liquid Gumption to go sprinting through the Houston International airport in spike heels.
By sprinting, I mean an undignified mixture of limping and off-balanced horse-trot that made a lot of noise because of the platform on my shoes, the jingling of something in my stupidly big purse, purchased for the express purpose of being luggage, and my own out-ouf-shape wheezing through two terminals to my flight, where several businessmen and a handful of Texas Aggies glared at me for holding up their plane.
It was a hundred degrees in Austin when we landed. I changed into a miniskirt in the airport bathroom and went to dinner looking like five miles of bad road–an improvement over the ten I had estimated.
My mom showed me pictures of her cats over mojitos and tostones (savory fried plantains.) All of which are apparently furry little sociopaths (the cats, not the plantains.) “You have to keep the closet door closed or Dot will climb my clothes. She ruined my symphony jacket last month.” She has another cat who pees in unmade beds, one who will chew through anything short of wood or the refrigerator door to get at breadstuffs, and one who I fished out of the bushes when I was ten, who was cute as a kitten and now has a semi-psychotic look to him from a lifetime of being bullied by other cats and tormentation by me in my earlier years. I liked to carry him around in my shirt. And hold him against his will. And chase him when he ran.
I was a disturbed child and there was nothing to do but read and chase the cats.
I’m still not responsible for this one’s bad behavior. He has irritable bowels and will shit on the floor if the litterbox isn’t pristine. Also, he’ll occasionally lay open my mom’s hand for no reason at all.
And people wonder why I like dogs better.
Tonight will be beer and barbecue (whether other people like it or not, because good Texas barbecue doesn’t exist outside of Texas and my dad’s back yard, and I want to embrace the novelty of eating outside without a coat on. Because the air will be warmer than my blood, you see.