the boy is gone now. sucked back to maine by a maternal vortex both powerful and familiar.
no one to bicker with. no one to clean the litter boxes. no one to cook for.
only me and the irregular ring of urine he left on the bathroom floor.
call me sentimental.
truth be told, he almost didn’t make it back to maine. the golden child was booked for the 6 am flight from duluth to chicago, then to portland. his ever-diligent father set his alarm for 3 and was up at 2:30, knowing that it would take an act of thermodynamics to stir the boy from his teen-aged, prurient slumber.
we got to the airport at 5:20…it’s duluth…it isn’t narita airport in tokyo. there was a line of people at the delta counter but no one in front of the united stand and in fact, no united representative. being a sage, i made my observations, chuckled to myself, acknwledged their global relevance, then moved to the kiosk. nikky handed me his passport causing me to suffer my first ever…“old man with new technology” hiccup. i tried the passport in every configuration and presentation and each time, the response was “unable to read your document.” i collected my composure, looked at the passport and realized the bar code was on his picture page. i flashed that to the benevolent, omniscient, machine and the response was immediate: “unable to process your flight, please see airline representative.”
great…except there was no airline representative.
“bastard airlines” i thought. or maybe i said it. regardless, the stress level for the clustered tangle of father and son was raised exponentially.
the clock meanwhile, ticked steadily towards 6 o’clock. sensing doom and disaster, i politely asked (yes…i said politely) if i could butt in line for the delta agent and everyone, bathed in the glow of my panic and unsure if i was the next sociopath about to take matters into his own hands, let me pass.
the delta agent was a smug bastard. he didn’t even have to let me know i was fucked for me to make that conclusion. “you were supposed to be here 45 minutes before the flight.”
excuse me pope francis.
“where is the agent?”
“she’s left for the boarding gate.”
“how do i talk to her?”
“you can’t now…but i’ll give you the united toll free number.”
the decision facing the charming, complacent owlman was thus: do i curse, go ballistic and hurl feces at everyone or do i suck it up and say, “okay, i’d like that number,” thereby not ruining anyone else’s day. i chose that.
something is wrong with the owlman.
i called united and expressed my disbelief that they would have one agent at their counter. from there, i actually sensed the customer service person understood my frustration.
being duluth, the next flight to chicago occurs in 2017, by which time nikky will have lived in the duluth airport for 3 years and 7 months.
nikky and i hung out at a familiar cabin north of two harbors for 4 hours and then headed back to duluth for his 3:19 flight. the kid is already a world traveler so a delay, even if it means extra time with his pain-in-the-ass father, couldn’t have been too bad, right nikky?
please don’t answer that.
the new duluth terminal was evidently designed by a troop of baboons. it makes no sense. there are no conveniences and if you want something to eat, you have to order it through an intercom. the old catholic in me thought i was in a confessional, except father johnson wasn’t reaching for a bit o’ willy through the intercom.
there are 8 double chairs and two swinging tires in the upper lobby and i get a sense that the duluth airport authority is suggesting “welcome to duluth…please leave our airport.”
the boy is home now. a fledgling 9th grader about to exercise his wit and insight on a gaggle of friends who think he may actually be funny. he has already told me he might not come to minnesota for christmas because “i’ll probably have a girlfriend.”
i’ll miss nikolai…miss the $200 dollar grocery trips and watching him eat entire quarter flanks of beef in one setting. i’ll miss him spending an hour in the bathroom primping in front of the mirror. i’ll miss him telling me how lazy i am; how unmotivated i am.
still, through the curtain of hormones and teen-aged uncertainty and feigned confidence he exhibited this summer, he’s a pretty good kid. and if i really miss the heck out of him, there’s always that ring of urine to remind me he is my son.