12:55 am departure time and this is the way to travel. Strange time, though. But those of us who are used to strange--these strange hours, strange people, strange bursts of activity and strange acuity and awareness at any and all hours--we all seem somehow to fade to gray, to blend in with the scenery. A nod shared with an all-night worker and then they--and you too--disappear, fade into the gray of the carpet, diffuse into some mist that exists only in the in-between places.
Meanwhile the ghost people, those poor, confused, diurnal souls wander. They are clunking, aimless things these lost daytime people, clumsy, shell-shocked specters separate from themselves, separate from their very lives at the moment, in this echoing, tomb-like limbo. Most of them are not made for this hour, for this quiet. Their lives are spent, by choice or not, in thrall to the odious chatter of the television, the false-hearty cranking of The Noise of Commerce, the reassuring clang of sales, sales, sales. This is what passes for community in this shabby, fucked-up world we have created. But not on this night.
The lost ones pass through the marble vault of the terminal, footsteps echoing, swallowed up in the near-silence, their hopes perpetually dashed as they search with forlorn eyes for some sign of something to purchase, anything, some commercial life, someone to tell them what they ought to want, something to buy, some stray golden arch shining like a star in the east, some heretofore hidden green goddess adorning a secret steaming paper cup set aside just for them. Surely there must be some hardy shopkeeper offering even a surly nod along with severely overpriced foam and bad coffee. Some signal that the engine of mercantilism grinds ever onward.
It all seems so wrong to them; the airport is after all an entity designed to suck money from captive guests, a brilliant example of seamless, total integration, a demo of The City of the Future, perhaps, as imagined in the filthiest wet dreams of financiers and salesmen. Like an airport, Our New City will sit alone, disconnected from anything else, a blue plastic bubble dimpling out of the scorched brown earth that surrounds it, that ruined, wasted brown scar-land where nothing unmodified ever grows anymore. It will be a city where there will be no competition, because there will be nowhere else to go, literally nowhere else to go. Enjoy your three-dollar bottle of water, and have a nice day.
But back to the present: the overstaffed security guards even laugh and crack jokes, chatting amiably with their quivering, shoeless, terror-stricken charges about the various security faux pas they have committed, their liquid slips, their gel gaucheries, their naughty, sharp little tweezers, their four-ounce cremes. All is or can be forgiven in the loose, late hours, with time to chat and an extra moment to catch someone’s eye, and see them briefly as a fellow human, not a cog in the machine, or, conversely, another faceless unit in the unending mass of cattle passing through. At this rare, late hour, we and they briefly become people again, even in this cold, future world.
Until we and they slip again into gray, and we are, again, wandering, alone.