I apologize for not posting last week, I was going through a lot mentally, as alluded to in this “story.” I don’t write in first person very often because it always winds up feeling too intimate to me and/or like I’m writing a YA protagonist, hahaha… hoo…
In this case it’s essentially a journal entry. Not sure how often I’ll do these sorts of pieces, but, well, it’s what I have for today.
I am about to fly to a funeral. The plane boards in a few minutes. It’s an exercise in trying not to choke as I scarf down an overpriced protein bar that doesn’t have very much protein. 12 grams. Insane. And now I’m cracking open a diet soda and taking my mask off. Brief guilt for giving in to the temptation of drinking the soda is subsumed by aspartame.
I bought them from one of those stores that “senses” the items you take from the shelves. I’ve never been to one before and hope to never be to one again. You swipe your credit card first, then it charges you eight dollars–eight dollars!–for your two piddly items after you walk out instead of politely letting you know the prices of things in advance. It feels creepy in a way that’s hard to explain. At least the soda is cold.
I need to pay attention while I snack; I got a semi-early boarding position. So I pay as much attention as I’m able to. As it turns out, that’s not very much. I was diagnosed with combined type ADHD yesterday and boy howdy it seems so obvious now.
There is a digital framed photo thing nearby. I attempt to look up what they’re called and it seems the proper name is… “digital photo frame.” I don’t know what I expected.
It’s a television screen inside of a fancy frame that rotates through images of several different works of art because appreciating just one isn’t good enough. The screen needs to cycle through several in the span of a minute like Shorts or Reels or whatever website-unique word they’re using to disguise force-feeding me TikToks. It is simultaneously kind of a fun, neat idea and a crushing reminder of the commodification of art.
There’s an error message in the center. The images of paintings continue to cycle behind it, undaunted, but there’s some sort of technical problem happening. A loose cable or a bad connection? I don’t know, I can’t read it from here. I doubt I would know what to do to fix it even if I could read it, even if I had the authority and desire to. It’s probably just some failsafe to put up an assortment of paintings that came with the machine instead of whatever was selected by the buyer if the thing fails. Better than a black screen, I suppose. Whose lovingly painted landscapes and pretty impressionistic people got designated as the factory setting? Heartbreaking. I hope they are well-compensated if they’re alive.
Still, it feels funny, in a weird, cynical sort of way, so I lift up my phone and take pictures. I want to be sure to capture that it is continuing to show other paintings in defiance of the error message. The irony of using technology to record an observation of faulty technology is not lost on me.
I lower my phone to see a woman staring at me. No, glaring. There is animosity in her expression. The word “acid” comes to mind, melting my eye sockets wider.
Does she think I took a picture of her? I fire off a speculative text about it to my friend. For some reason I think that writing out negative thoughts to other people will… what, make them disappear? I want to stop burdening my friends with every thought that passes through my head but I don’t. I need to take up journaling again. Is this journaling? It’s something.
I lower my phone. She makes eye contact again. Why is she looking at me like that? There is no good way to approach her but there’s no good way to not approach her, either. I take my mask off and drink some more soda. Putting it back on makes me wonder if that’s the reason she keeps staring. I am smack dab in the center of Texas and it feels wrong to stereotype, but, well…
If that’s your problem, why, lady? This airport is so thoroughly clogged with people I’m halfway expecting to get sick the second I’m back to my job that I will have already been away from for a week. My mask is a fragile little paper shield against the world. How much is it doing to disguise my overly expressive face from this woman?
I pretend to be very involved in my phone which is easier than I would like to admit. Still, I suffer a little: I’m not doing great at my German in Duolingo while I have one eye on her. The error message remains on the digital photo frame’s screen over her head. It’s still sad and funny to me. Somehow, I do not miss my spot to board.