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Fragments

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I generally save this blog for whole pieces and ideas fully realized.  Of course, I’m not fortunate enough to pop out fully-grown word babies all of the time. Sometimes, there are kernels of ideas and fragments of stories that are scratching to get out and I can’t focus on anything else until I’ve gotten rid of them.

I put these things on Tumblr, a blog format born for fragments. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s like Twitter but without the character limit and the ability to share multimedia. In an attempt to save these fragments of stories from being buried under quotes, Simpsons references, dog pictures, and Rolling Stones music videos, here a few fragments I’ve written.

Seasons

Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching a lot of “Game of Thrones” lately, but even in the heat of summer I can’t help but feel that “winter is coming.”

Walking these streets and feeling the wind blowing at a cool 66 degrees, I feel at home. I can’t go out every night and revel in the drunken haze of a college summer night in Madison anymore; I have actual work to do tomorrow. But I can always take a ten-minute walk around the block and breathe in a little of that feeling. The job can’t take that away.

I’ve ambled along the same streets in the worst winter has to offer; I’ve felt the sting of sub-zero wind pelting my face like needles. I’ve experienced the bitter cold, and I know how to use the buildings around me as protection against it on my walk home. But I’ve also felt the same wind cooling me off as I escape the oppressive heat of my AC-free apartment in the dog days of summer.

It’s lurking behind every corner, glaring at me during the warm months. It’s a somber realization that when the world turns and summer becomes fall and autumn turns to winter, the wind is no longer an ally in the ongoing War of Life.

Even in the darkest nights of winter, when the snow rises and the mercury falls, I know that in a few months the summer will come around and places like patios and the Terrace will usher my mood back above freezing.

I’m from the Midwest, born of the North Country. I’m conditioned for all of it. Maybe I’m doomed to be a slave of the seasons. Because honestly, I don’t know anything else.

Thoughts at 30,000 Feet

And it doesn’t even matter who the woman fiddling with multiple pill bottles, going to the airport bathroom, and coming out jittery and happy really is. In my story, she’s already the cracked-out grandmother who can’t survive her 2-hour flight without anything less than a bathroom bump and an ice cold Heineken. I sort of envy that dedication to non-sobriety, even at her age.

***

An airport is the closest thing to a human zoo I hope our society ever concocts. An airport is Mecca for people-watchers. Air travel is a look into the very best and worst of people.

Departures and arrivals bring out the rawest emotions; you have lovers, families and friends saying goodbye to each other and you have real grief and pain coming from it. You also see the pure elation resulting from the same people getting back to where they came from. Terrorism sort of killed the idea, but we all feel something when we’re watching a movie and someone’s racing to the airport to say all of the things they wish they said earlier.

On the other hand, airports bring out the ugliness in people. You see the TSA doing everything it can to keep everyone safe, but all they get is stink-eyes and accusations of privacy invasion by the very people they’re trying to protect. People think they have a lot more to hide than they really do.

Flight delays and cancelations create monsters out of seemingly-normal people. We’re so afraid of missing our chance to get home or missing an opportunity to be somewhere else, and we’ll lash out at anyone who gets in the way of it. As if an hourly employee working at the gate actually caused the delay or can do anything about it.

You need to have very, very thick skin to work at an airport.

***

I’m always surprised to see how conversations with strangers evolve on an airplane. You’re essentially invading the personal space of random strangers for a few hours, packed in like sardines.

Maybe you sleep. Maybe you dive into a book or work and turn on the iPod, if you’re like me. But maybe, just maybe, you start talking to this person. You probably start out making banal observations about the weather, the airline, the flight. Something safe, and something you can bond over. Delays and cancelations are good common enemies, so they’re a good conversation starter.

Then maybe you move onto more interesting things. I think the forced proximity and lack of exits causes most people to open up. You start telling this absolute stranger intimate things about yourself, because hey, why not. You’ll probably never see them again and it feels good to let your guard down for a while.  You tell them about your wife, your kids, your job. Your boss might be a dick, your kids might be allstars, your marriage might be crumbling.

Before you know it, it’s time to turn off the electronics and hear the sound of the wheels coming out in preparation for landing. It’s time to end the conversation. This is when the weirdest part happens: you introduce yourself for the first time as you’re deplaning. Maybe you don’t tell them your name, because you dig the anonymity and they have all sorts of dirt on you. It’s odd, how people wait until the end of the flight to tell the stranger their name.

And then you never see them again.

***

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