Aug 10, 2004

Me, more or less

The bar tenders have their collars turned up like greasers and the waitresses have southern accents and dimples. Yeah, says the guy leaning his suit jacketed elbow on the pay phone talking into his cell phone hand, I’m in the Cincinnati airport which is like in Northern Kentucky or something.

I dial my pre-paid calling card, 1 for English, the area code for the area west of Seattle between the mountains and the sea, get my family’s tape machine and say the layover’s been longer.

Keep your bags with you at all times, says the electronic lady-voice, so I sling the duffle bag over my shoulder, roll up the sleeve of my jean jacket again and wander down the terminal through the magazine stand, read the time off a stranger’s faceless watch as he flips through the Halle Berry issue, and wander down the terminal grinning at the kid playing ball on the escalator and the girl who looks more sad than pretty.

I throw away a paper cup and my gate seems a little empty. James Silly-man? says the guy at the counter. S-i-l-l-i-m-a-n? James Silliman. I slide my bag on the linoleum floor and pull my boarding pass from the ink-blotted pocket.

Yes? he says.
You were just spelling my name into the phone, I say. You’re James Silliman?
Sure, and hand him my ticket.
Well let’s go.

He scans my pass through the machine looking more like a habitual ritual of modernization than a war on terror and I walk down to the plan where babies look from laps, business men tussle with magazines too wide for coach seats and stewardesses take roll of pillows.

If James Silliman is on the plane will he please ring his call button, says our pilot as I steer my duffle bag down the belly isle of the over-crowded sky-whale and he can pronounce my name, so maybe he can fly.

Hey, I say to the short stewardess stretching for the open door of the overhead bin. That’s me he’s asking for.

Oh, she says settling from tippy toes, arms resting raised in a hallelujah against the ledge of the bin. You’re James Silliman?

Looks like it, I say.

Which is how I lost my first name in an airport that can’t decide if it’s Ohio or Northern Kentucky. Which is kinda like losing your heart in San Francisco but a little sadder.