Carolyn lumbered through the airport, a backpack slung over her left shoulder, her right arm stretched by the weight of her carry-on.
Big Brother’s voice reminded her, “Unattended bags will be confiscated.”
She stopped to catch her breath, put the suitcase on the floor close to her feet, and moved the backpack to her right shoulder. The pack had been the agent’s idea, so she could make sure everything made the plane change with her. It held more and had better pockets than a traditional purse, but she felt silly carrying it.
She picked up the suitcase and trudged onward. It had taken her forever to get to the departure gate and then they announced a change. Why did it have to be at the opposite end of the airport?
The aroma of freshly baked cinnamon rolls filled her as she instinctively inhaled deeply. That would have to do. The bakery line was long, her new gate was still a good hike away, and the flight would be boarding soon.
She looked longingly at all the people effortlessly pulling bags on wheels. Why hadn’t the agent suggested that? If her father’s old bag hadn’t been the right size for carry-on she would have shopped for one. Maybe they all had wheels now.
Finally she got to the new right gate.
Carolyn lifted her eyes skyward. “Please don’t let them change it again.”
“You got that right,” said a Gothic person of indeterminate sex.
Carolyn started. She hadn’t meant to talk out loud.
Big Brother repeated his warnings. The Gothic person sniffed, drawing Carolyn’s attention to a nose ring. There was one through the left eyebrow, too. Why would someone do that? It had to hurt.
“You going to Maui, too?” the Goth person asked.
Carolyn paused, but saw no way to keep her destination a secret. She nodded and turned away. There were only two seats left open. The Goth person plopped down next to her.
“I love the islands… you been before?” it said.
Carolyn shook her head and pulled out the novel she’d brought for the plane. She opened it and put her head down, but that didn’t work.
“Kauai’s the best, but Maui’s nice if you stay away from the tourist traps.”
Carolyn stared at the first page.
“I’m Becca.” The girl shoved her ring-laden hand over Carolyn’s book.
Carolyn raised her head and made cautious contact with her fingertips.
The girl’s black lips couldn’t hide her dimples or the openness of her smile. It was just all the black leather and spiky hair and dramatic, ghoulish make-up that made her seem threatening. Well, that and the piercings. Carolyn returned the smile tentatively.
“You’ve been to Hawaii before?” she asked.
“Oh yeah. I love it there. Costa Rica’s nice, too, but Hawaii’s my favorite.”
“Really?” Carolyn thought of all the vacations she’d spent caring for her parents and working on their house – her house now. “You travel a lot?”
“Yup. I’ll stay until my money runs out, then go crash with my folks, get a job, and save up for the next trip. They cut me a deal on rent, to get me to come home sometimes, but eventually I’m going to work my way around the world.”
“How long did it take you to save up for this trip?”
“Three months. Maui’s really cheap if you know how to do it.”
“About fifty dollars a day. And the plane ticket.” The girl pulled a small electronic device from her pack and stuck pieces of black foam into her ears.
“Fifty dollars a day?” Carolyn sighed. Her hotel alone was three times that.
The girl didn’t hear. She was nodding to a dissonant sound audible despite the ear buds. So Carolyn didn’t talk about the Jeep the agent had insisted she add to the reservation, so she wouldn’t get stuck off-trail or on a beach. Carolyn was too timid to ever leave the road, and too timid to argue with the man. At least he hadn’t made reservations at restaurants for her, though he’d given her a list of places that served delicious fresh sea food – probably all expensive.
Carolyn touched Becca tentatively on the forearm. “Where do you eat?”
The girl emptied the ear closest to Carolyn, but still nodded to the music as she answered. “Mostly from grocery stores, then fix it in the kitchen or barbeque out back at the hostel. Groceries are expensive, but it’s cheaper than eating out.”
“They let you use the kitchen?”
“It’s a hostel. Like a hotel, but with community bathrooms and kitchen.”
“You share the bathroom with strangers?”
“And I’ll be sharing a room with three other people. You can get a private room, but it costs more. I’ve only done that when my gram came along.”
“Yep. She travels the same way. Hey, let me give you her email.”
As the girl handed Carolyn the slip of paper, a disembodied voice called for the first passengers to board. Carolyn stood up. The agent had said a first class ticket was essential for such a long flight. She knew Becca would be flying tourist.
“Are you sure your grandmother won’t mind you giving this to a stranger?”
“That’s the beauty of being a traveler,” Becca smiled. “There’s no such thing as a stranger.”
Impressions is a series of character studies – short sketches to wet your appetite. If you’d like reading more about Carolyn’s journey – or Becca’s – leave a comment.