All I could see when I looked up at the sky last night was the moon, in the clear and among clouds. I’d picked up my friend Leah at the Long Beach airport, a small, Nineteen-Fiftyish place where passengers walked out to the plane on the tarmac and the baggage claim area had only one snaking carousel.
The video update monitors promised that her plane was on time. They lied. Twenty minutes later I had Lynn check the Jet Blue website. That said that her plane was just touching down. Ten minutes later, I watched it pull up. Leah told me that they’d almost run into a Federal Express jet which had come up a little short. So they swooped around for another go at the runway. Ah, Long Beach.
While I loitered, I scried the other waiters. There were no less than two For-God’s-Sake-Get-A-Room couples, one discreetly hiding in a nook half hidden by a plant and the other brazenly going at it near the baggage desk. He sat on a bench and she faced him, her legs wrapped around him. There were plenty of people on cell phones, including me, pacing the floor or standing with one foot propped on a bench. I received a call about a wayward friend who had been found. I relayed the information to yet another friend and to Lynn,. For additional companionship, I read out of a volume of poetry by William Carlos Williams. With Williams’s cadences in my head, the motions of the waiters became straight and perpendicular. I couldn’t put words to the forms just yet, but I began creating them all the same.
The arrival of three jets at once erased my compulsive symmetry. A pair of double doors threw out passengers like a janitor throws out water in a bucket. There was no gap between the flights. I stood at a prominent point. When Leah came through the doors, she sighted me and waved.
We picked a post near where the bags through those mysterious black flaps. All the bags looked alike. Leah could see the dark blue that distinguished her bag from most of them better than I could. Still, it was about fifteen minutes before we found her bag. Because we’d stationed ourselves at a curve and because there were so much luggage, bags kept falling off right at our feet or jamming. We’d pick them up and put them back on or, with the help of others, unclear the jam. I said to one woman “If I keep doing this, they’d better pay me!” She laughed and then I noticed that she worked for Jet Blue.
After Leah finally got her bag, I noticed that all the young lovers had broken their embraces and disappeared into the crowd. Two Buddhist monks in saffron robes waited at the curb. We escaped the airport and went to eat at Spires where a very large party — thirty or more — kept arriving in small numbers and delaying our meal. We ate and when the waitress disappeared before handing us our check and the cashier disappeared, Leah marched off to read the riot act to the staff. She met only a busboy who didn’t speak English. A second before she was about to drag me out without paying, the cashier appeared. We paid for our meals, but didn’t leave a tip.
I dropped Leah off and went home. The moon scattered its light among the trees.
And now I think of the question of alien life again. I’m sure it exists out there. In a few tens of thousands of light years, perhaps the beings on another planet will look upon the hemisphere where I now sit typing. They will see the moon flying around our globe. And they will wonder if we are the ones who have been causing the reports of UFOs that some of their people see.
I am part of the intelligent life on earth, a planet very much like Long Beach Airport. Where nothing is clear, nothing is certain, and all is chaotic.