It crosses my mind every time I peer down — "have our wheels crossed the yellow chalked line between the lapping waters of the bay and the tarmac?" Skidding across the dark pavement soaked from the usual cloud cover feels comforting. Even if there was an extra bump accompanied with a slight shrill from a passenger on board Flight UA81 to SFO.
I find the circling around the terminals amusing. Feeling the tension of co-passengers readying to return home or begin their journey, my eyes gravitate elsewhere. Seeing each gate marked with a destination, I imagine each traveler starting their journey as mine has come to an end — to think it wasn't too long ago that I too was beginning.
Off the plane and emerging into Terminal 3 eases the strain that distinguished my face while disembarking. It's bright, the modern fixtures inspire, and it means I'm a few steps closer to home. Passing into the arrivals hall consequently brings the hope of seeing a familiar face with the onset of flutters in my stomach. But the sudden reality that this arrival required a cab home and there will be no warm embrace quite yet sinks into every inch of my body
There's this unusual feeling, where the flight always feels shorter than the time it takes to wait for luggage. Suitcases start to tumble out in jarring positions; some upside down, and others in angles where I whisper to myself, "I hope there is nothing fragile in there." A few minutes pass, and the black suitcase I said I'd mark better the last trip appears.
Technology's beautiful interaction with travel is at its peak in a simple moment on the escalator, and I can't help but feel overjoyed by it. A touch of the button, and an Uber is within three minutes of delivering me back to the warmth of home before I've made it outside. After the long journey, my tired face says it all, and the driver says it's okay to rest for which I am thankful for.
San Francisco seems to look different after each trip. A new detail, a change in the skyline, and a shade grayer then I previously remember. Another reminder of what time and distance does to the memory. Approaching my neighborhood, I feel the sudden need to tell the driver the fastest route to the house and that indeed steering off course is a good decision. Though I've remained silent the entire journey, I've never been quicker to speak up to ensure those three minutes of saved time.
Habitually I always get dropped a few doors before my actual apartment, something the city happily trained me to do. I peer out the top floor, with views over San Francisco, and take in a deep breath before the heavy lifting begins. Clanking the suitcase down three flights of stairs is my signature welcome home.
I knock on the door in the hopes that my husband will come to open it before I've had to spend too much time searching for my keys. He opens, though it is my cat to greet me first. A short shriek and her sprinting body of fur zips past me. She too has been waiting for that journey down the hallway all day. A warm embrace, and I'm back in my apartment.
As I stumble in, pushing aside my suitcase and backpack, I scan the room assuming there would be change, but nothing has. My projects left in small notes are still on my desk, reminding me of the sobering reality that a return home will find me there in a few short hours. My habit of unpacking my suitcase before going to sleep starts to creep into my mind, and it must be satisfied.
Finally, a rinse and the weight of the day of travel feels relieved. Settling in, the familiarity of surroundings and senses has brought the process of arriving to an end.
Until the next arrival.