Nothing will prioritize the quintessence of time in your life more than arriving at your layover destination 60 minutes late. It is even more stressful when your second flight happens to be international and you’ve eaten nothing and are about to fly across five time zones and one major ocean after first going through four major terminals and 165 gates in sixty minutes. I find myself at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, an in-between place, where two cities meet.
After studying in the United States for some time, I decided to interrupt my studies and go somewhere else. I needed to learn more. I needed to go. I packed my bags and enrolled at a university outside of the U.S. I was eager to leave and do it fearlessly. During the months leading up to my journey, I would sleep for only three to four hours a night. My mind would wander off to Europe. My mind was already in Spain. The homeland of my maternal ancestry.
Arriving in Terminal A after the 20 minutes it took to deplane, my biggest need is to find a bathroom. I look to the sign that says “toilets” in English. Go. 40 minutes.
Terminal A is also not Terminal D – the international terminal – so the next need, 35 minutes, is to get to Terminal D. I hop on the Skylink Airport Train that runs in circles taking passengers from one place to the next. As I step in, a fierce male automated voice says please hold on, this train is departing. The overwhelming heat of Texas infiltrates the glass windows as the speedy train travels above ground. I look down to see cars traveling on the highway going from one place to the next. The doors open. Exit here for all D Gates.
In Terminal D, looking at the departures screen, I choose to interpret the signs into Spanish. Salidas instead of departures. Hora instead of hour. Puerta instead of gate. Llegada instead of arrival. I switch languages the way a bilingual flamenco musician would switch from an acoustic song in C major to Do or D major to Re.
The gate number has changed to D29. 30 minutes. There are thousands of people moving in all directions, some running past me. Businessmen with solid colored ties sit on the black leather chairs at their gates typing away on their laptops while others sit on stools at Gas Monkey Bar drinking tall glasses of cold beer. I smell barbecue sauce from Texas Cousin’s Bar B Q. Cliché tourists stand out with their straw hats, cream-colored shorts, flip-flops, and Hawaiian shirts.
I find a McDonalds and order something to go. At McDonalds, there is a rush of hungry passengers and it takes 20 minutes to satisfy my order. The cashier frowns at the line of customers. I wait at the counter while deciding whether I should ditch my order but no, this is not a good idea. Not yet at least. I grab my bag and begin walking to my gate wherever D29 is at. 10 minutes. 10 minutes. 10 minutes.
Most of the people have already boarded. The last of the passengers are going through. I lower my body and breathe a sigh of relief. The screen at the gate says Puerta:D29 Destino: Madrid, España Estado: Embarcando.
“Tarjeta de embarque?” The gate agent asks me. He scans my boarding pass and looks straight at me. “Buen viaje.”
I stop myself between the carpet and the black mat inside the actual plane. The flight attendant looks at me wondering if I changed my mind and if I will, in fact, walk in.
Atravesar is a Spanish word that means to live through or to experience. It also means to pierce through something. To break through. At the same time, it can also mean to pass through. People might also use it to express the act of crossing over from one place to the next. For example, we can use this verb anytime we are dealing with going from one street to the next or in my case, going from one continent to the next. Atravesar encompasses many meanings at once. To experience isto break through. To pass through isto cross over. I slowly put one foot in front of the other, crossing over from one place to the next.
I stick my hand into my McDonalds bag: one hot and spicy with medium fries. This is the last U.S. item that I will come across for quite a while. I devour my spicy chicken sandwich. No more spicy in Spain.
There is soft acoustic music playing as the remaining passengers board the plane. A Spanish woman with red hair grabs an extra pillow from the storage compartment above. I can hear Spanish accents all around me for the first time in my life. Spanish accents carry a famous lisp. This means that in Spain, the T-H sound supplements the Z sound as well as the soft C sound. Vosotros is used instead of ustedes. Tú more than usted. Pasta instead of dinero. Vale instead of okay. The miniature TV screen in front of me shows the map between Dallas and Madrid. 6971 Kilometers. I will literally pass through the night while crossing over the Atlantic Ocean. I adjust the language settings on the TV screen, switching from English to Spanish.
BIO: Caleb Gonzalez
“I am a second-year graduate student in the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Nonfiction and an instructor of first-year writing at Colorado State University. My work has been previously published in literary journals and online magazines such as The Hawai’i Review, InTravel Magazine, Riverrun, and The Final Note. Thank you for your consideration.”