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Place: William P. Hobby Airport

by Eileen Myles
Illustration by Kristen Radtke

Place: William P. Hobby Airport

Eileen Myles
9 Snaps

Features:

  • Houston’s second-largest commercial airport
  • International Air Transport Association airport code: HOU
  • International Civil Aviation Organization airport code: KHOU
  • Elevation: forty-two feet
  • Statues of George H. W. Bush: zero

was thinking of the mundanity of the airport but what’s mundane is me. Anything can happen at the airport. I’m there a lot. I drove into the city this morning from Long Island, the sea, to traverse to the desert, Marfa, Texas, and it’s basically an eleven-hour journey. I deny it but it’s true. There’s no direct flight to El Paso, there’s lousy connections, today’s is formidable—sitting here for three hours at Hobby, then driving three hours to get to Marfa. And my truck is busted in the parking lot so we’re not going to go there yet. No, not at all.

This three-hour layover is the easy part. I am in the long nothing of the journey. The gate’s right over there amazingly and I’m different every time I get to the airport. I’m always somebody else.

Today what that means is that I shop. Arrived here and “I” felt great. A friend texted as I marched happily through the arcade of the airport. We were having a pleasant exchange and meanwhile I’d already begun fingering a poufy orange travel pillow at XpresSpa. Why do I like this pillow so much. Well, it can be a shoulder pillow, a desk, a chair, and at least two other things. It’s orange, my favorite color, and it’s five dollars less TODAY ONLY. I’m thinking this is a very special way I can meditate on the road, and I love to meditate. I mean, sort of. Will I get arrested if I meditate at the airport? I don’t know. I haven’t bought it yet. I head to the bathroom after fingering it greedily to the saleswoman’s delight. I’ll be back I assure her as I sail into the bright beige and black “ladies’ room” where I pee if I’m female, take a leak if I’m male, then wash my face, get real, and back out still texting with my friend about our great lives and then I buy the pillow. The guy at the opposite counter in the spa smilingly asks will you buy me one. He’s nice so I respond in a friendly manner, but what does it mean when a man who works at the place asks a female customer to “buy him one.” What’s the joke. Am I getting a mommy vibe.

I look adventurously down the concourse and I see Peet’s. I love Peet’s. Don’t we love Peet’s cause it’s not Starbucks? I’m hungry but I go to Peet’s first. They have a Havana cappuccino and a regular one. Havana, it turns out, has condensed milk. Ha! I don’t want that. I’ll have a small regular. I sit down. Pull out my computer. The goal is to kill time. To sit perched right on the death of it. To savor my coffee at Peet’s. I can make a call. I do. I call Joan. I’m already eyeing the cool metal mugs hanging on display at Peet’s. I do need mugs in Marfa. I watch a fairly cool-looking dude pick up one of the mugs appreciatively. I almost give him a thumbs-up. Good mug, right.

Joan and I catch up, and before the conversation is over I am buying dog food online. I probably seem a little absent at the end of the call. But it’s also breaking up, so nobody’s the wiser. I get the dog food and decide to buy one mug, not two, which was my original impulse. Try one out. See if you like it right. The woman at the counter who I had the Havana conversation with wraps my mug really well. I kind of say wow. She’s pretty elated too so it seems like a normal response. We’re both high. I need food. There are lots of food choices at this airport, but what I saw right away was the guac burger at Pappas Bar-B-Q. Sounds gross yet now I am sitting at Pappas getting the guac and it is gross. A burger that cannot hold its shit. It’s greasy and collapsed.

But the plan in general is to not eat too much and that’ll be easy. Half a guac, no problem. What’s funny about food at the airport is that it is a bit like how cocaine was when I was younger, in that it would cause me to magically have sex with the person I totally did NOT mean to have sex with.

Today at the airport I am drunk on something clearly. My life, my time, the monotony of the airport is offering me so many American choices. I left the North Fork this morning with a borrowed Carmex in my pocket. I never use Carmex but here I am doing it and it’s good. And when I bought the pillow I also bought the lip product they sold. Is it good. She actually wouldn’t quite answer me, mumbling something about how her boss likes it. What does that mean. I have two lip products now. And about forty minutes to go. I thought this fine long counter at Pappas was simply the place to be. The guac burger not so much but the flow at Pappas is so good. The wash of iStore, Starbucks, the TexasMonthly news, the nervous, irritated hike of waiters—probably just did drugs in the bathroom, and the happy, lumbering, retired couples slogging along with their rolling bags. All our lives we’ve been waiting for this. Travel. Who’ll have a stroke first. Everywhere I look people are on their phones. I remember the beginning of the iPhone. Something that would do everything. Who would want that. Everyone it turns out.

New people at my counter are now picking up the menu. I don’t say don’t get the guac. It’s all just going to happen. Everyone’s buying it, all of it, jocks in groups passing by, dance music plays lightly. All good! I’m at the gate, yay, and it’s time to get my butt on that damn meditation pillow. Say good night, America. We are so happy. Goodnight. Goodnight.

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