The tram hummed through the tunnel, the fluorescent lights on the ceiling flickering almost imperceptibly. Red text announcing the next stop scrolled above the doors, first in English and then in a progression of Asian scripts: Chinese, Japanese, Korean. Early evening on a Sunday, the car was almost empty; a teenage Japanese hipster leaned against the wall at one end, scrolling through music choices on his iPod, and a man sat in the seat next to the doors, his daughter asleep with her head pillowed on his shoulder.
I stood in the centre of the tram and watched the pipes flash by in the tunnel outside, my fingers wrapped around a metal pole. The car surged and I braced myself as it began to slow.
The intercom pinged and a calm female voice said, “Next stop, Baggage Claim and Main Terminal.”
As the tram came to a stop, I shifted my weight and adjusted the strap of my bag over my shoulder. As soon as the doors opened I was out into the foyer, dragging my suitcase behind me. Without thinking about it I veered left; I’d been through Sea-Tac Airport so many times that I could walk the route from the S-Gates to Baggage Claim on autopilot. As I rounded the corner, I smiled at the bored-looking TSA agent and stepped onto the first escalator.
My smile grew bigger and more genuine the higher the escalator rose. As I stepped off the second escalator into baggage claim I was almost bouncing on my toes with excitement despite my exhaustion; my head swung right and then left as I searched for my parents’ familiar faces. Although they usually waited for me right at the top of the escalator, they were nowhere to be seen. My smile began to fade. I’d really been looking forward to seeing my parents, getting my bags, getting in the car…and going to sleep…and having parents to take my mind off of Erik…
Wondering if they were waiting in the wrong place — it had happened before, they were getting old — I pulled out my phone and began to walk towards the other end of baggage claim. My phone beeped. Ooh, stellar. Low battery. And a voicemail.
“Hey bub, it’s Dad. You’re home!” He cheered, and I heard traffic in the background. Where the hell were they? “We got a flat around Poulsbo and since your old man forgot to replace the spare — ” An unintelligible, but clearly annoyed, interjection from Mom interrupted him. “ — we’re pretty stuck until AAA gets here. Sorry, kiddo, it’s gonna be awhile. It’ll be great to have you home, though. Your mom says hi. Love you!”
I faintly heard Mom shout something at the phone before it squawked at me and the battery died. Feeling unexpectedly deflated and very, very tired, I stood with my phone in hand and stared blankly at the moving carousel for a long moment before finally turning and heading back across baggage claim.