This is the sound me trying to swipe the wrong part of my virgin passport through the bar code reader (to be fair, there were two barcodes).
This is the sound of me negotiating the single-row seat with a couple split across the aisle of my small plane out of Knoxville.
This is the sound of me sprinting a half mile through the Houston airport to try to make a connection I’m sure I’ve missed (luckily, it was delayed by a few minutes so I made it).
I make no sound on the flight from Houston to Seattle because I’m wedged in the middle seat and have to sit upright and still as a statue for 5 hours to keep from bothering my neighboring passengers.
At first, there is no sound at midnight in Seattle. Then there’s a periodic annoying cell phone ring. Then the sound of a janitor unfurling garbage bags. A gaggle of would-be passengers cheers when their tardy plane arrives, and they commiserate good-naturedly when they learn there’s icy fog at their destination and they may have to turn around and come back when they finally get there. Now I’m nearly alone in the airport. Two gate workers talk about a new boyfriend, and then they leave, and then I am alone, the shops long closed, my stomach gurgling. This is the sound of me crinkling open some crackers and trail mix, slitting open a vacuum-sealed spread of little beef sausages, peeling back the foil lid of a tub of parmesan cheese spread. These I got on the first leg of my trip (Continental’s pretzel upgrade, I thought, though I received the bounty only on my trip’s first leg) and thought to save for the long, shopless night in Seattle. This is the sound of my reaction to the cheese. The other things were ok. This is the sound of my finding a bench to lie down on and rolling my jacket up under my neck and looping my leg through my backpack’s straps. This is the sound of me sitting up to read instead. And finally, the sound of the nothingness of a nap.
Interrupted by the pock-pock-pock of sudden herds of flight attendants going staccato to their early gates. This is the sound of an empty airport bathroom, and the quiet of another little nap. This is the sound of more pock-pock-pocking flight attendants, and then some laughter, pairs and trios of people beginning to stream into my terminal. Morning has broken.
This is the sound of the cappuccino machines at Starbucks and of my ordering a chocolate chip muffin. This is the sound of a Mt. Dew I’ve paid to clunk from its machine, another bribe to the caffeine gods so that they may keep my eyes wide and my brainwave somewhere north of flat for the workday that starts in 4 hours.