Sue drove me to the airport Friday afternoon, dropping me off by the entrance. As I was pulling my luggage out of the trunk, she must have sensed my desire to ask why she wasn't accompanying my as far as she could, shrugging, "I'll let you off here. You know how much I hate those places. So busy and complicated. It stresses me out."
I couldn't help but chuckle at that, and she probably wondered why. I guess after everything I've been through it seems like such a luxury to be stressed out by something as mundane as a crowd. I mean, even in my old life I would have found that quaint, but now it feels downright absurd.
"Plus..." she added, "I trust you."
"Thanks, mom," I said, offering her the type of warm hug I've gotten very used to dishing out in order to reassure her that I am her loving daughter and not a total stranger - the kind of hug that used to send a shiver up my spine because it felt so forced, and even now leaves me feeling pangs of guilt. I even kissed her cheek, which I do sometimes when I feel the need to be extra comforting because I'm feeling worse than usual about my deception. It must have looked like something out of a commercial as she watched me go through the doors into the terminal, wheeling my luggage behind me.
Then I was alone.
Not alone-alone, of course. There was hundreds of people rushing this way and that, but I was invisible to them. As invisible as a pretty attractive blonde 18-year-old girl ever gets to be. As I stood in line to check my luggage, I felt this rush of anonymity as I realized that for the first time in a long while I wasn't around anyone who knew my name: either of them. None of my family members, or schoolmates, or even Meghan were coming with me on this trip. And that would end soon enough, in a few hours I would land in Florida, where I would meet Lauren's father and his girlfriend, and I would have to play the daughter again. Even that, I felt, would entail a certain amount of freedom... Bert Sherman doesn't see his daughter often, so I doubt he even has that strong of an idea of who she is. I could be myself, a bit.
I was happiest in the airport, though, where I suddenly felt very comfortable being nobody. Some random traveler. I was so used to travelling on my own before I went to Maine, and since then nearly every moment of my life has been lived in close proximity to all these people who came with the life I was thrown into. Before then I was feeling apprehensive about travelling on my own: I was used to doing it as a grown man, who knows what horrors might await me as a teenage girl on her own?
The answer: teenage boys. As I was sitting in the gate waiting for my flight to board, a boy came up and sat next to me. He was about Lauren's age, drenched in body spray, with the faint remnants of acne but generally okay skin. I'll admit that he was attractive, but don't mistake that for me saying I was attracted to him.
I played a game on my phone until he finally made his move: "Hey, you on this flight to Florida?"
"Yep," I said, not looking up.
"I'm visiting my boyfriend," I said flatly. "Goes to U. Miami."
"Oh, cool," he sighed, "He's a lucky guy."
"Yeah?" I half-asked.
"Sure, you're really hot."
"Yeah, I know," I said.
He seemed put off, doing a bit of a double take as if to say 'Excuse me?' "What do you mean you know?"
"I mean, you're not the first person who's noticed. I know what I look like. People don't stop reminding me."
He seemed very challenged by this bit of self-confidence, and immediately changed seats, muttering "Bitch" under his breath. I smiled to myself. I know a lot of you guys out there are hoping I'll embrace the lifestyle of a heterosexual woman, but I much prefer to leverage that into messing with their heads: it's so easy and fun. Sorry bud, I don't kneed your opinions to validate my self-worth.
I mean, I wasn't even done up: I was dressed comfortably in sweats and a hoodie with my hair hidden under a wool hat, and no make-up, minding my own business.