What Was Once My Room

Sep 01 2004

Once I was settled at Omni, it was time to return to Green Bay to tie up loose ends and collect Piroko. I booked a surprisingly cheap plane ticket, considering how close it was to the travel date, and made my way to the airport by bus. Actually, I missed the first bus, then got kind of lost downtown until I met this girl from Singapore, Wei, who was also looking for the bus. The two of us found the correct bus stop, and were joined by an old couple from Wyoming and a 20-year-old army soldier who’d recently returned from Iraq. I was a little flabbergasted to personally meet someone younger than me who had recently been shot at and nearly blown up, especially because I’d recently seen _Fahrenheit 9/11_. On the bus, Wei and I chatted a bit about places around the world we’ve visited or in which we have friends. At the airport we parted ways. Uh, I told myself I wasn’t going to tell anyone this, but I guess it’s too stupid to ignore: the auto-check-in machine wasn’t accepting my information, so I had to wait around to talk to an actual Alaska Airlines person. As it turned out, the reason my plane ticket was so cheap was that it was for _September_ 20th, not August 20th. Yes. Try to imagine my thoughts when I realized how much trouble I was in, and how little there was I could do about it, because it was completely my own fault. Awesome. I don’t even want to detail the exquisitely crappy couple of hours that followed; eventually I ended up with a ticket to Milwaukee, connecting in Atlanta. As I trudged to my gate, I considered how funny it would be if I ended up on the same flight as Wei. I did. She was pretty alarmed to see me walking up to her, hours after I was supposed to be on my plane to connect in Las Vegas. We talked a bit more, and she introduced me to a girl she’d met, Ari, who recently returned from missionary work in Africa. Wei herself is going to grad school for social work, after which she’ll go to help kids in Southeast Asia. Between the two of them and the soldier, I almost felt embarrassed to be nothing more than a mere technical writer. I finished my book and started reading Quinn’s _The Story of B_ (much more about that later), then when I arrived in Milwaukee Hiroko and Sangik were there to pick me up, and I slept much of the day away. Anyway. During the few days before I returned to Green Bay, Jon and Ben and Piroko kept making reference to this Nick character, who in my mind seemed to be just that: a character. They made him out to be this big, aggressive, stereotypical military guy, and I was looking forward to meeting him to verify that he indeed talked about guns and swore a lot, and that the huge boxes of candy and sweets indeed came from his mom who works at some food distributor. The whole time I was at Ben and Jon’s house, he didn’t show up once. Apparently he spent all day at the casino (winning), which just improved the caricature in my mind. When I looked in what had been my room, I found such a mess that it was hard to believe any truly existent human being had made it. The assortment of items and the way in which they were strewn about seemed too well planned, like a movie set of someone’s room painstakingly arranged to look messy in a way that exposes their character. I never did meet him; perhaps he really is just a specter fabricated by my friends while I was away.