Terminal Landing

Terminal Landing

A Chapter by Maeve Andrea
"

April and Violet arrive in her hometown, with Violet's father waiting for them.

"

The last few hours- give or take a few months- have felt exactly the same.


I'm in that perpetual state of half-sleep I can only get on the occasional Greyhound line. It feels longer than it's been, and the straight-east direction of the I-70 doesn't help matters. The surroundings of the area haven't changed worth a lick; whenever I open my eyes I feel like we've gone nowhere. It's droning constant; my head against your arm, you looking down on me with amused care, occasionally stroking my hair as if every strand matters. As the surroundings continue on the same path, I wonder if we have as well; I know where we're heading, but I don't know if this means anything, if I'm just over-thinking this.

I let it ride until you tell me “We just crossed the border.” I open my eyes to take it in, surprised to see that the bland plains of Colorado's east border are the same as the monotonous plains of Kansas' west border. This doesn't feel like it belongs to you, much less you belonging to it. The second we were assigned to trade poems, you seemed far too regal for Wyoming, much less the dead-and-gone plains of Kansas. Your writing was straightforward, grand, hardly poetic, but spoke of something bigger than miles of retired brown wheat can tell.


Maybe it’s just you. The way you’re tall enough to bathe in clouds, the way you shelter me under the crook of your arm, the way you pretend not to care when your heart is bleeding. Something grand, something regal, something untouchable… not dry, barren, and bland.

You notice my surprise in a way only you can communicate. “Yeah. It's not much, but... welcome. We're almost there, first town east of the Colorado border. Papa's gonna be waiting for us right outside the stop. He doesn't work on Sundays.” You sigh and can’t hold back bitterness as you add “Guess even crime takes a Sabbath.”

The thinly veiled hostility is palatable. I glance up at you, concerned. You look down at me how you always do when I try helping you. “It's all good,” you insist. “We're gonna be fine. We haven't talked in awhile, so... it'll be fun.”

As usual, you end anything close to an emotional thought with vague wry amusement. I shake my head, but as usual, say nothing, running my fingers across your arm to communicate comfort. In exchange, you stroke my hair again, so intently I wonder if you think you're holding me together at the seams, even as I comfort you from things you cannot hide. I surrender to your touch, dozing off for another five minutes until the journey slows. I open my eyes, seeing that we're off the highway.

You ignore my gaze, facing home like a soldier facing the enemy.

The Greyhound pulls into the McDonald’s parking lot, which rings true of what kind of town we’re at. We’re along the highway in Goodland, Kansas, where only a few fast food jaunts by the interstate stand between us and what’s left of the dust bowl. Everything outside of the window is being slowly touched by autumn. Few leaves have fallen, but there’s a sense of exhausted melancholy, a small town preparing to hibernate for the winter. I lay against your shoulder, smiling as sweetly as I can manage, wondering how a violet can bloom in such an environment.

Your eyes scan the town as if you’ve never been here before, as if your father isn’t waiting for us by the only stagnant car for miles.  “Looks like we’re here,” you announce just as the driver starts his arrival spiel. You gently, coyly nudge me off of your shoulder as I listen to him prattle on about beautiful, windswept Goodland. We’ve just crossed the border from Colorado and he’s suddenly the visitor center. Your statement of “looks like we’re here” is more accurate.


You groan, from the six-hour bus ride or something bigger, and start to stretch, bumping me off of your chest as you reach for the bag. You grab it, and the bus finally parks, stalling because surely no one wants to get off the bus in Goodland, Kansas, except these two fools, one of whom possibly knows not what she is getting into.

Curious eyes watch us leave. I see someone reach for you, tapping your leg briskly. You immediately balk, replying with toneless intensity “please don't.” I cringe, knowing that whoever it was knows as little about your reaction as they really should. The stranger, as faceless and voiceless as a parent from a Peanuts special, points above you at a remaining bag. You close your eyes with a deep sigh and reach for it, mumbling an apology. I reach for your shoulder, but you evade me, despite me being the only safe touch you know. From the corner of the bag, I see the red handle of a kitchen utensil that I don't think I've ever seen before, startling me enough to keep my hands off of you.

The bus takes two seconds after we’re out to pull away, all too eager to leave. It spins dust in the distance, and for some reason both of us watch it as it speeds away. I continue to look around, cryptically entranced. There’s nothing but an empty highway, a barely built city on its sides. I keep expecting more, but don't receive anything other than dust, empty highways, truck stops, trailer parks, burger stands, and your father's car.

“Looks like we’re here,” you repeat, your trademark tightlipped grin almost audible.

I nod slowly, picking up a suitcase. I hear the call of birds in the distance, and the distant sound of a car starting up. Every step seems to bring us further away from the car rather than closer, but I look over to see your face to decipher if my nervousness is warranted. Your smile is still sewn shut by defense, and your eyes could shoot a plane out of the sky, but there’s a little color in your cheeks, and a gleam in your eye. I figure if you can be happy, so can I, even if I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel.

I nearly walk past your father as he greets you on the sidewalk. At first, he’s quiet, greeting you with a hello and taking your bags. I wonder at first if he’s a personal guide as I take my bags to his trunk, as if Goodland has any need for guides. He sets them down next to mine, not even regarding me with a smile or a motion of acknowledgement. At first I wonder how this man could be anyone’s father; he’s a brick wall of intensity. It isn’t even his appearance, but it’s his demeanor- on the surface level, he’s just cold, untouchable, startlingly brutal. He walks away, and either the ground shakes or I do.

Invisibility is never a new sensation, but I’m already set off-guard by his abject blindness until I notice him, arms outspread, embracing you so closely as if he thought you forgot him. I feel like an intruder, looking away until he lets you go. As I do, I notice that even as befuddled and amused as you look by his affection, a single tear escapes your eye, dyed black by mascara. You’ll try and deny it later, but I know the truth, and that’s enough.

The sound of the birds flying by, heading south as could be expected, catches my attention again. A black cloud of crows pass by, less mundane in a group. They caw in graceless, disorganized clusters, desperate to be heard, low enough to grab my attention but not low enough to reach me, no longer crying “join us, join us”, no longer a desperate means of escape, my flying days long behind me. Even as I watch them go, a part of me still wonders what it’d be like if I were to try and follow them, join the murder, see where I land.

Eventually I hear you again. “April, over here.” I stop counting crows, presuming they disappear into the dust. You stand next to your father, and now I get it despite both of you looking barely alike, aside from Hispanic heritage. Even as you tower over him by a foot while he's nearly twice your width, your skin purer than mine could ever hope to be and his nearly worked off the bone; you looking full of energy and him looking perpetually sleepy, you both smile the same, you both tear up the same, and the air between you two speaks of mutual understanding and respect, to the point where I'm caught off guard, to the point where I can trust him ever so slightly.

I stand in front of you two, smiling a greeting and waving. Your father speaks, his voice warm, with a distinct edge. “Hello, senora,” he says, not moving but still smiling. “I'm sure Violet has mentioned me to you at least once, but not as much the other way around. My name is David. What is yours?”

My eyes nearly fall out of my sockets at a task far more demanding than he could know. I grab my scarf out of instinct, as if it hasn't become part of my skin at this point. Thankfully, as you've a habit of doing, you save me. “This is April,” you say, adding “I just said her name, papa.”

David laughs, eyes closed. “My apologies. My attention to detail wanes with age.”

Before he can address me again, you continue to explain. “Sorry, she's not much for talking.” That's an understatement, and I fear he'll question you more, but thankfully he understands, walking to the car. Still unsettled, I follow, going to the backseat. You stretch your arms to the sky, nothing but emptiness around you, with your black pants and tight white tank top contrasting you to the endless shades of brown around us. I watch you walk to the passenger side, taking care to sit beside your father so you can push your seat far enough back to reach me. Your father starts the car, and you smile at me. I smile back, but can't hold your gaze, because I already know I'm an internal earthquake right now, not sure what he thinks, not sure how I feel, not sure how things ever got this personal.

Your father tries to make conversation. “So.” Immediately his words feel heavier. You didn't tell me much about him. It's clear to see, however, that David Domingo is very straightforward, alarmingly yet disarmingly so, and I could only watch to see his actions.

“Violet,” he says, “is this your...”

Silence reigns. Silence, my constant companion, my second language. I read tension in the seconds that slowly tick by. He faces the road, and you look back at me, not sure how to answer the question, to me or to him. I look away, terrified at making the choice for you.

You settle for the safe answer. “Yes, papa. She's a good friend of mine.”

He nods, gravely serious for just a moment, but I watch him forcibly lighten up, as if he's trying to remove a magnet from his chest.. “Ah. Regardless, it is... very nice to meet you, April. I don't know too much about you, but I look forward to getting to know you and talk to you.”

You're going to be waiting a long time, I think to myself, but I just nod. You swallow, sitting straight up against your chair. I keep watching you, analyzing your every move, trying to find the reason behind all of them, but coming up short with a bunch of conflicting answers that I swiftly realize all boil down to my own fears reflected in you.

Absently, you turn on the cassette player, and a new voice speaks. Spoken word, very organized, a lecture much like our professors would give us, whether it be about botany, poetry, or any of the classes we share to get to our divergent destinations. As I listen to it, I piece it together just as you sigh, resigned.

“Some things never change,” you say.

David turns right, not making eye contact. “I'm sorry,” he says. “It was the last thing I was listening to.”

You just shake your head, and look out the window. I listen to the words disappear slowly as David turns the volume down. I hear the word God multiple times, and suddenly I understand, the preacher's words. “God is of utmost importance” dominates my thoughts, bouncing around in the silence, replaying them in a different light over and over. No one speaks again, leaving me to look around at the classic small town build of Goodland. It looks like a thousand different towns, but everything has a piece of you in it. I watch more crows fly over us, knowing what's best for them, and like you, knowing it's not here. I wish I wasn't scared to hold your hand right now, because I don't know who needs comfort more.


The silence starts to drive me mad, so I dig into my bag, the surroundings too dull to gather further opinion from. My hand brushes against an empty journal, periwinkle with a white lily on it. I consider it for a moment, but my mind already starts to drift toward her memories, towards the note in the beginning of the notebook, a hundred empty pages that follow it. I again wonder why I carry it around with me. I pull my jacket over it, wishing that out of sight meant out of mind, and zip the bag up. I reach for your hand for a moment, trying to think of you and forget about her, trying not to think at all, trying to make the inside of my mind as silent as everything else.



© 2018 Maeve Andrea


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Added on February 14, 2018
Last Updated on February 14, 2018
Tags: greyhound, bus, goodland, kansas, dust, dust bowl, father, women, arrive, arrival, sermon


Author

Maeve Andrea
Maeve Andrea

Delhi, Delhi, India



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