My friend drops me off at the airport. "I'll be fine," I say. "Ticket's right here and everything."
If one could recognize dreams as dreams, I would know better. If a dream involves an airport, if a dream even involves an airline ticket, I would force myself to wakefulness, or reject the ticket, say, "No. We are not doing this one. Not ever again." I have this dream so often that now my dream-self says, "Heh, you know, it's a good thing this is really a trip to the airport and not a dream, because I have the most terrible nightmares about going to airports." She never knows.
I have my bag, I have my ticket. Sometimes the nightmare starts here, or even on the journey to the airport--or sometimes even during the packing--but this time the dream actually lets me get to a waiting area without difficulty. I sit, I wait for the announcements. Tonight's version has me rising at the announcements, approaching the double doors behind the airline employee. Oh, yes, that's right--I'm carrying a sleeping bag for this trip. It's on the floor in front of the employee. I pick it up--it's abnormally heavy and lumpy. Turns out there's a young girl inside it, sullen at being caught. "You can't go on this flight, dear," I sigh, and reclaim my sleeping bag while the employee waits to see if the girl's parents are to be found. I go past the double doors and now it begins.
Instead of a walkway to the plane, there's a descending staircase. And at the bottom, more double doors. And more stairs. Now the stairs are descending ramps lining one exterior wall of the building. There are windows on the wall and the airport's inside. Double doors at each end of each ramp level. At which floor do we stop? A couple of ladies carrying their bags look at me to see if I know. I don't. I assume we're supposed to go all the way down.
No double doors at the bottom. We run back up a level. Inside the airport's busy, bright-lit, lined with giftshops and gates for airlines I've never heard of. Central Airways. Burden Charter. Where's ours? We look for someone to ask. It's so crowded. I run down one corridor--now it's like a mall at Christmastime. Nothing is familiar. I lost time boarding with the episode with the girl in my sleeping bag--they're going to close the doors soon, I know it.
A ramp. I must have come down too far; I run up it. Nothing familiar here either. Maybe if I retrace my steps. Not going to happen; now the place is as busy as Vegas. Wait. Buses outside, two levels down. In some airports buses take you to your plane, I remember that. The panic is building. I'm going to miss my flight. I find what looks like a service door and there's a staircase. Down--I'm outside. I found the buses! There, that one looks like the right color. "Where are you going?" "Alaska." No, no, that's not it. What about that one? Wait--someone in uniform! "Where is this plane?" I push my ticket at him. "Oh, that gate's just inside. Can't miss it."
The doors are all one-way, no re-entrance. But there has to be an entry door at the end. Now I'm running. There's no entry door. Wait--there's one. But it doesn't open into the same area that I came from. Ramps leading up. More unfamiliar gates. More Vegas-style lights and crowds. "Where is my plane?" No--he doesn't know, he runs the gift shop. Doesn't know anything about gates. He shrugs. I don't have time to be angry.
I'm crying. I'm going to miss it. Tears clogging my throat. I can't see the gate labels. Another corridor of giftshops. No employees. This corridor ends at the street. I'm outside again; I have to go around the block to get back in.
There's no point in running any longer. I have to have missed the plane by now. Is there a clock? What time was departure? There's no clock. No. I have to keep going until I know. There. A door. Back inside. Gates, but not mine. The other ladies who were looking with me split off to go looking in other directions ages ago. I'm on my own. I'm not going to make it. I need to calm down and tell myself it's not so bad. I'll rebook. It's not the end of the world. Yes it is yes it is yes it is. Rebooking is impossible. They may not get me out for days. There will be three connections and they'll lose my luggage. I have to find the gate. Have to. What time is it?
Oh. There. Those colors. That's it. No--that might be it. I have to get there. No. It looks like it's on the same level, but it's not. Does that ramp connect? No. Yes. I can't tell. I'm running. The crowd is thick. I have to dodge around everyone. Where's the ramp. I'm on it. It's below the gate. No. I look up. There. I think that's it. Employee in front of it, talking to someone. Don't close the doors. Don't close the doors, please, lady, don't. She's closing the doors. No. Don't. If I drop my bag, if I climb--I don't even know if it's my gate. I can't leave my bag. I'm going to miss my plane. I'm going to miss it. She's only closed one door. She's moving away, talking. I have to get there. I'm going to miss it. I have to have missed it already. Please help me. Why isn't there anyone to help me. Who designed this airport. Help me. Someone. Oh, god, I don't want to miss my plane. Someone.
And when I wake up, it's like someone threw me through the plate glass window of consciousness. My heart is going a mile a minute, my head is protesting the abruptness of waking up. I'm so furious at being tricked by the dream again--for dream-self being taken in by it again like it is every time. My head aches like I've had no sleep at all. I'm protesting the unfairness that I can't go back to sleep and sleep for eight hours to make up for the way I feel.
I have had this nightmare at least once a month for all of my adult life.
I am so exhausted.
I want to stop having this dream.