Exhausted, I collapsed into a seat at my flight's gate. An hour before boarding, I leaned back and worked on my report cards, which were due today.
The gate agent announced it was time to board. I stood up. Where was my roller bag?
I had left it somewhere.
By the time I signed for my confiscated bag, my flight had left. It was the last one of the evening.
"Can I sleep at the airport?" I asked the gate agent.
"Sure," she said. "Go back up the escalator and find a comfy spot. Your flight boards at 5:35 AM."
I looked at my phone.
Nine hours till I could head to the new gate.
The first four hours I tried to distract myself from the worry I would be kicked out of the airport. I kept thinking about the book Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting. The main character and his dad, who don't have a home, sleep at the airport every night and they have all these tricks for not getting noticed.
At midnight, I watched people settling in for the night. I chose a couch across from a guy wearing On running shoes, because my oldest son wears those shoes. I reasoned the man must be a distance runner. He must be safe I told myself even though the other half of my brain was telling myself I had no way of knowing that.
I laid my roller bag flat on the ground, stacked my backpack on top, and linked my arm through my backpack strap. I prayed no one would come near me.
With my sweatshirt's hood encasing my face, I laid on my stomach and rested my forehead on my arms. The lights glared, the announcement about not leaving bags unattended blared over the loudspeakers every twenty minutes, and my audiobook tried to lull me asleep.
Eventually it worked because I woke up in a pile of drool. Thank goodness the couch was synthetic vinyl. Bleary-eyed I made it to my new gate, flew out of Norfolk, caught the connecting flight in Newark, and made it back to Boston.
By the time my husband and I walked in the door, it was 1 PM. I hightailed it up the stairs to our bed with fresh sheets, said a silent prayer of thanks, and fell fast asleep.
To think there are people every night who don't know where they will be sleeping.
To think there are people every night who wonder if their belongings will be gone when they wake up.
To think there are people every night who fall asleep wondering if they will be safe.
Life has bestowed countless gifts upon me.