We're All Characters

We're All Characters

In the weeks before I left for Vegas, we had severe storms, with wind that couldn’t decide which direction to blow and windowpane-rattling thunder.

Typically, the cats don’t seem to pay attention to storms, but for some reason, these fronts were much different. All of them fussed and fought. Amara was particularly grumpy.

And poor Stella. The thunder would start ramping up, and her eyes would go wide and turn to giant black puddles—then she’d bolt from whatever surface she was on, which was a problem when the surface was my lap or a pillow near my head.

Her claws are so sharp you don’t know anything’s happened until the blood starts pouring.

One evening, she’d been sleeping at my feet. The thunder crashed; she got my leg and arm and nicked my earlobe when she made a U-turn on my head to flee the room.

Another time, Stella got me on the lip with a single toe as she leapt from the coffee table, misjudged how far to go to clear the back of the couch, and used my face to assist her escape. For a good while, my lip would crack and bleed when I talked or smiled.

The storms were on my mind regarding the flights — and whether I’d be stopped and asked why I look as though I’d been in a knife fight. Given the wrecked state of the aviation sector, I figured there’d be massive delays and cancellations. But, to my relief, everything went rather smoothly.

Well. Right off the bat, I didn’t follow the instructions printed on the BACK of the baggage tag from the self-check kiosk, and I had to apologize to the woman at the counter who told me people make that mistake all day long. Well, maybe print the instructions on the FRONT, but I didn’t say that. I was just glad to be rid of my checked bag and went off to do one of my favorite airport activities:

People watching.

Three of the more prominent characters:

Let It Go Girl

This little girl was about three years old, with dark hair that went EVERYWHERE, and wore a tattered Ella costume over Frozen pajamas—complete with a dingy cape which someone cleverly tied up in a big knot so it wouldn’t drag the ground or get caught in the moving sidewalk. I get the feeling this girl and her costume are inseparable. That when it’s time to launder it, she sits and guards the machines.

She sang loudly, “Let it GOOOOOO, let it goooo” out of tune and with no concern for rhythm (and just that line from the song—she never moved on to another stanza). Dad, holding tight to her hand, was pale and had that dead stare that sleep-deprived folks often have. Mom sauntered alongside, likewise zombified. The girl sang from the gate, sang her way past me, and many minutes later, I could still make out her melody, such as it was, among a distant crowd.

Other folks smiled and commented how cute. Yes. Cute. But those poor parents wish they could bottle that child’s energy and snort it as needed.

Lonely Big Boy and His Guard

A flat-affect stewardess tended to an unaccompanied minor, a boy of about ten years old. His face was bright but guarded when he came out of the chute, and the lady pulled him off to the side. Clearly, he was ready to be picked up by a family member or friend. He wore an ID lanyard around his neck, a baseball cap that was a bit too big, and carried an overstuffed backpack. She stood stick-straight in her navy blue uniform about two feet from him and barely spoke to him at all. Accompanying the unaccompanied was not her favorite task.

Occasionally, he’d risk a quick glance up to her face, like “Lady, where’s my person at?” but she didn’t offer comfort or assurance or even just chat with the kid about his favorite sport or candy or anything. He was surrounded by an airport full of people but was all alone. His countenance fell by the minute. And there were 15 long minutes, which was probably ten times that for the boy. The stewardess got antsy, and her posture stiffened even more. He pulled out his phone, looking desperately from the screen to the crowd ahead of him. I could feel his anxiety from twenty feet away.

Turns out, anxiety is contagious from twenty feet away.

I started looking with him. Back over my shoulder. Is someone coming? Who is coming? Mom? Cousin? Grandma?

Did Grandma get lost?

Oh, heaven help us. Grandma got lost after the TSA folks pulled her aside and frisked her because she forgot to tell them about her hip replacement hardware, and it got her flustered. She could be stroking out in a bathroom somewhere, leaving this lonely boy with the never-smiling stewardess. Stella could walk all over that guard lady’s face and she’d never have to worry about her lips bleeding when she smiled. Because she never smiled.

Finally, finally, a blonde woman with the same delicate features as the boy emerged from the crowd. The relief flooded over him—and the stewardess who may have actually relaxed enough to allow whatever crawled up her butt to see daylight.

Then the tears came. From the blonde lady and the boy who frantically pushed them away as fast as they fell across his flushed face. Poor kid. What a scary few minutes.

Had me going, too.

And I never found out what happened to Grandma…

Oh, wait. Grandma wasn’t real. She was a character.

But aren’t we all characters?

As I write this, it’s Friday, and we’re counting down to the writing workshop, which starts the day this goes live. We’ll be focusing on characters a lot in that class, too, I assume.

I think character creation is much like people watching, but with your eyes closed or your fingers on the keyboard. And then you call in Little Miss Muse and let her do the rest…

We’re about to call an Uber.

And I’m sure the driver will be a character.


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