For the one person that makes distance a bitch. My number one fan, my inspiration, my constant cloud until the knife, my partner. Thank you for being my army.
“Welcome to Los Angeles. This is Mayor…”
The loud speaker was heard from the outside the moment Madison stepped out of the car. She took a deep breath as if she could inhale the sounds. Sounds that were music to her ears. Madison was the weird girl who looks up at the sky looking at the planes crossing the sky wishing she was up there surrounded by strangers loving the view from above not wanting to land and being anxious about her new destination at the same time. When she was a small kid, her father would take her to the small park next to the airport they lived near by and stared at the arriving and departing planes. She now lived in Santa Monica and all she needed to do was walk down four blocks to the beach and look at planes leaving LAX. Madison couldn’t recall the moment she fell in love with airports and planes; there was a reason after all why she had one tattooed in the back of her forearm even though no one liked it except for her sister who shared the same passion for airports except for the small detail that she hated flying. But not Madison. Talking about airports, Madison’s sister would say they’re magical places filled with happiness. Yes, there were a lot of tears falling down, but they were happy tears she would say; tears of joy, tears of loving someone and having to say goodbye to them or welcoming them, tears of excitement realizing their dream came true or they were on their way to pursue their dream. And Madison couldn’t agree more with her even though she never cried in an airport; not once; not even when she said goodbye to her favorite aunt not knowing when she would see her again since she lived in Germany or even when she said goodbye to her mother and sister the moment she was moving to the opposite side of the world. She came to tear up from excitement, but those tears never fell. But Madison felt different this time. She couldn’t describe what it was or what she was feeling, but she wasn’t feeling the same excitement she always did when she arrived to an airport.
Shoving the feeling aside, Madison grabbed the big luggage which wasn’t as heavy as she thought – maybe it was two or three pounds overweight – and the carry on, thank the Uber driver, who was the exact replica of Bob Marley with the difference that he spent the entire ride listening to Mozart, and entered LAX. She entered with firm and hurried steps as she wasn’t carrying any luggage with her. She was on a mission; unlike Felicity who was an impatient ball of nerves following her with quick steps like a lost puppy who had no idea where it’s going. Felicity asked Madison if she was sure she was going in the right direction as if it was her first time in an airport and had no idea where she was going.
Madison rolled her eyes. She wasn’t a patient person, but there was only one person she could be patient with: Felicity. But that patience was slowly disappearing and Madison was controlling every nerve in her body not to loose it knowing Felicity couldn’t control it either. She turned around causing Felicity to almost crushed into her, looked at her as she was delivering her the news that a loved one had cancer and reminded her of the rule: the moment they got to the airport, she was in charge and Felicity wouldn’t get in her way. Felicity lowered her head and nodded slowly.
Madison put the luggage on the weighting scale and Felicity looked away. The scale read, “BAG OVER” and the text quickly turned into the weighting number, “51.9 lb.” Madison turned to Felicity grinning. She was right: almost two pounds overweight. But Felicity wasn’t mirroring the same emotions as Madison. In fact, she fidgeted as she twisted her rings, bit her lower lip and breathed quickly. Madison guessed she was going to loose it any minute now.
Felicity threw her arms in the air and said that was it; she was going to pay for the overweight. Madison rolled her eyes for the millionth time that day and it was only noon. She told her best friend she was able to fix this; she was able to transfer two pounds to the carry on. Felicity cried insisting the carry-on had no more room left and she wouldn’t carry anymore with her; the easy solution was to pay and that was what she was going to do.
Madison was trying to figure out how she hadn’t lost her patience yet. If there was something she hated was when people wouldn’t listen to her and that was Felicity doing right now. She wasn’t listening to her. Madison looked at Felicity’s backpack which looked as if it was about to explode – no room there – and then looked at her blue Disney bag and the two heads picking out of it, Sullivan and Stitch, as if they were going to give her any answers. Madison chuckled at them remembering Felicity’s doubts in purchasing them and Madison convincing her she should. She remembered Felicity she could do this and Felicity narrowed her eyes, told her she would double check with someone, turned around and disappeared amongst the growing crowd around the machines.
Madison shook her head and looked down at the luggage and then at the carry on. The carry-on seemed packed, but with some possible space in it. Madison knew she could work with it and so she took a deep breath, rolled up the sleeves of her shirt and knelt down. She opened the big bag. It was full, but everything was placed and folded perfectly and it all was still flat and even as if every single clothe item had been ironed and immediately placed inside it. Madison opened the carry on then and that was another story. Felicity was right; it was full; full to the extent some volume come out the moment Madison opened it. This was going to be fun.
That precise moment, Felicity decided to show up with hurried steps and ordered Madison to do what she needed to do; she didn’t care anymore. Madison looked up from the floor to find a determined Felicity looking down at her and raised an eyebrow in question. Felicity told her the first twenty pounds cost a hundred dollars and the next thirty pounds, another hundred dollars so she better managed to work it out because she wasn’t going to pay a single dollar.
Madison shook her head as she bit her lower lip. She knew this and even told it to Felicity for the last three days ever since she started freaking out about her trip back home, but of course Felicity didn’t pay any attention to her and Madison knew it but didn’t say anything. She knew perfectly well how freaked out people can get when it comes to going through all the steps that involves having to take a flight. After all, she had a lot of those in her own family. Apparently she was the only sane one when it came to this.
Covering the entire luggage surface was Felicity’s too big Christmas pajamas. It was two sizes bigger than her usual size and Felicity fell in love with them instantly and didn’t doubt for a second in buying them even though Madison didn’t get it; it wouldn’t be the same wearing them when it wasn’t Christmas. The white pajamas written all over them with green letters, “Nice” and “Naughty” consisted of two parts: a shirt that almost looked like a hoodie and sweatpants. Madison grabbed the shirt first and folded it even more until it was a tight cylinder and pushed it inside the carry on between the many Ghirardelli chocolates she bought as presents but Madison had the feeling Felicity was going to keep them for herself. She then grabbed the pants and as she fought to place them inside the smaller luggage – they were thicker than the shirt – she wondered how Felicity was able to wear another pair of pants over the pajamas ones. One night, they were comfortably in their pajamas enjoying a good marathon of Madison’s favorite TV show, Castle, when Madison looked at Felicity who at the realization of her best friend staring at her instead of the computer in front of them, paused the show and turned to look at her best friend. They grinned at each other not needing to say anything. Both of them knew what the other was thinking. “Connection,” as Felicity loved to say it. She asked Madison what time was it. It was 10:37 p.m. and they had exactly twenty-three minutes before The Cheesecake Factory closed. Madison got up from bed in a single jump and informed Felicity she wasn’t changing. Felicity laughed as the jumped out of bed as bed and following Madison to the closet in order to grab something to put over their pajamas. The lengths they would go to for something sweet in the middle of the night; not to mention how crazy they seemed to be walking, well, Madison was jogging afraid they didn’t make it on time shouting she felt weird not wearing a bra underneath all the clothes layers she was wearing and Felicity trying to catch up with her while trying not to drop her phone with which she was filming the situation as she tried to walk in a straight line without passing off as a drunk to whom everything seemed funny to the point of crying out of laughter.
Next was the black plastic top hat with big and silver letters “Happy New Year.” Madison grabbed it knowing that there was no way she could placed it inside the other luggage, but she wanted to have that one memory back: the best new year’s eve of her life. And she wasn’t exaggerating something that everyone in her life thought she did constantly; it was even more special than the one she spent in New York by the Hudson river looking at the Brooklyn Bridge with the big city that never sleeps behind it. One would think that one was a memorable one. It was; but it didn’t reach the same level this one did.
They decided to go Downtown to watch some fireworks; it wouldn’t be new year’s eve without fireworks after all. Before the light show began, a colorful countdown was displayed on the white magnificent City Hall building and Madison can’t remember a time she screamed her lungs out alongside the crowd that ran all the way up to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and when the countdown got to ten, without knowing why, Madison got chills. She looked at her best friend’s back in front of her and yes, she knew how cheesy it was, but she couldn’t stop herself from thinking how lucky she was. Three… Two… One – Madison jumped at Felicity from behind and hugged her, whispered happy new year in her ear and kissed her cheek. Yes, she couldn’t be more lucky to have her as a best friend and she still didn’t know what did Felicity see in her to trust her in the way she did. Once the crowd had almost dissolve entirely, they wandered around trying to find a bar which didn’t required a ridiculous entry fee or a private invitation to go in as they flirted with Madison Italian and British friends wondering if they were going to get lucky. It was New Year’s Eve after all and alcohol was required to celebrate. It was around 1:15 a.m. when they found a hidden gem: a very small speakeasy down on 6th Street; so small that it only had three tables for two, two booths on the corner, a piano right in the middle and the bar was shorter than four feet. They traveled to the past; they were now in 1920’s L.A. and Madison immediately forgot what year they just celebrated to begin.
The New Year’s hat was clearly too big and needed to stay there, but when Madison moved it in order to make more space, she realized it wasn’t empty in the inside. She turned it and saw the inside was occupied by Felicity’s favorite hat of all time: the dark blue binnie Felicity bought three days after her arrival and would wear it practically every day or at least almost every night once the temperature lowered from the seventies during the day. Madison looked for another one, the black Yankees hat she gave her a couple of years back when she went on another trip around the States with someone who she thought was her friend. What Madison didn’t know at the time was that Felicity would show her what real, pure and honest friendship is. Madison looked up ready to ask her best friend about it when she realized she was wearing it. Madison smiled at her and Felicity turned her head clearly not following her. It was another of Felicity’s favorite and Madison couldn’t help to feel somewhat proud she chose it.
She picked up the beanie and grinned at her. Felicity straightened up, her eyes shone and her face lifted up for the first time since they got to the airport. Both of them were smiling conspiratorially as if sharing a secret telepathically. Both of them were thinking the same thing; remembering that night. The night Felicity became Lois Lane and experienced, for the first time, a very drunk Madison. The night Madison got only three hours of sleep because she wanted her best friend to have what she wanted since she met her very Italian friend and ended up being so proud of her it was worth every single sleepless minute.
It was a rare stormy day in L.A.; the type when you want to be in bed all day binge watching your favorite show while eating a delicious dense chocolate cake. The best friends were invited to a small gathering and even with the honest friendship they had, none of them mentioned they didn’t want to go. But being in an honest friendship, both of them made the sacrifice to go thinking the other one wanted to go and even though nothing went right at first, little did they know it was going to be one of the most memorable nights of Felicity’s visit.
Trying not to get more soaked, they went to get some Fernet Branca because yes, if they were doing this, the were going to do it right. It wasn’t until the cashier told Madison they couldn’t sell her the bottle because she didn’t have her passport with her that she realized how much she craved for a really strong and cold glass of Fernet. A taste from her old home. Cursing the cashier and the store for its rules, the friends left empty-handed not caring if everyone else thought they were rude and cursing some more, the two girls dragged their feet up the hill under the rain. They got to the place and Madison realized she didn’t know the floor she had to ring so she texted the girl the apartment belong to. The WhatsApp status showed her she was online, but the dumb girl wasn’t replying her. Didn’t she know it was raining like crazy? Was she so foolish to let them wait under the rain? Even under the circumstances, Felicity was laughing non-stop.
At least someone is having a good time, Madison thought.
She took a moment to stare at her best friend in front of her: her favorite binnie was completely soaked and the hairs coming out of it were dripping water onto the jean-jacket she stole from Madison the minute she got there creating dark big spots on it. When did Madison get so lucky to have such a – she couldn’t find the one perfect adjective to describe her – friend? Matter of fact, Madison always thought Felicity was too cool for her. Madison was about to let Felicity she had enough when two male voices, one deep as an ocean and the other one light as a bright smile in the early morning, called their names. Madison’s friends, the Italian and British guy. Entirely by instinct, Madison took her wet hood off smiling big time uncovering her anger and from the corner of her eye, she saw Felicity trying her best not to crawl on the floor with laughter.
The night ended up like no one imagined. Madison happily and frustrated tipsy because dull British guy wouldn’t get any of her indirect-direct flirtatious lines. Were all British guys this slow? Was it just Madison’s own luck to go after the dull ones? Not wanting to know the answer to that question, Madison just kept on drinking from the little but very powerful Mezcal bottle imported directly from Mexico from one of the girls of the group. On the opposite side of the room, an entire different story was happening. Felicity was game-on with her sexy Italian guy. Flirting was happening like a non-stop ping-pong match. Madison stared at them just in time as Felicity was titling her head wearing the Italian guy Ray-Ban style glasses. Later that night, when Madison asked Felicity about it, Felicity explained her she told him she was Lois Lane after he said he looked like Clark Kent and Madison would not stop laughing after that, proud of having such best friend.
After she rolled the binnie carefully as if it could break without the proper care and placed it in the upper corner of the carry-on, Madison turned to the big luggage and grabbed the not-so-white sneakers Felicity bought. Madison couldn’t stop herself from wondering where the almost brownish pair of sneakers had been for the last month or how many miles did they cover. The sound of the intense ocean crushing against the rocky cliff came to her mind; walking alongside the Sunset Cliffs in San Diego philosophizing about the ocean’s immensity as well as discussing the whale sperm dispersed all over the water. Madison couldn’t look at the ocean with the same eyes after that. Going down and up, just once because they almost didn’t make it to the top, the famous Santa Monica stairs. Sand creeping its way in during long sunset walks at the beach. Intense hikes at the Griffith Observatory to get a perfect view of the Hollywood sign. Steep stairs in Downtown as the Angels Flight wasn’t operating and at Universal Studios rushing towards The Mommy rollercoaster as if it was going somewhere and they wouldn’t be able to ride it one more time.
Madison, next, saw a couple of Victoria Secret perfumes – they were eight to be exact. Madison shook her head as she grabbed one by one and placed them on the fresh floor creating a small wall besides her knowing perfectly that Felicity would keep all of them instead of giving them as gifts to her family members as she said she would. Madison knew perfectly well Felicity loved those perfumes – maybe not those in particular, but the Victoria Secret perfumes in general. She would swear those were her favorite since she brought her two as a gift from her first LA tourist trip four years ago. Madison smiled thinking there was another thing she did right with her best friend. Madison didn’t think of herself as a bad friend, but she always had the feeling Felicity did way much for her than she for Felicity and that killed her because that made her feel she wasn’t good enough for her. In fact, three years in of their amazing and strong friendship and Madison couldn’t still figure out how someone like Felicity would choose her as a best friend. She was definitely lucky.
Madison went back to the perfumes and shook her head once again. Something as heavy as a perfume should never go in the big luggage. When preparing luggage for a trip, especially a big trip like this one, one needs to always put the heavy stuff in the carry-on, even if they don’t fit, and then see how much room and weight you have left and then analyze what can you move from one bag to the other.
Madison worked in autopilot. She felt she was under a spell and was staring herself organize that luggage from above. There was something that felt otherworldly about the entire situation.
Madison smiled at her and Felicity mirrored her actions, but her smile didn’t reach her eyes as if suddenly the simplicity of it all crushed her: she was leaving. They were waiting to finish with check-in. It was their final hour.
Felicity laughed nervously as she told Madison she was an expert at this and Madison just shrugged it off. It was true though; she was an expert on the matter but she didn’t want to brag about it; not right now at least.
After checking the weight was within the allowed numbers and that Felicity was comfortable enough to move around with all the new weight she had to carry around now, both friends made their way to check-in. No problem there. Madison couldn’t help a small smile when she saw how Felicity couldn’t stop following her luggage until it disappeared from her sight as she was afraid it would get lost right there and then. When the luggage continued on a place no traveler entered before, Felicity turned to Madison with a sigh and a look that read, ‘I don’t feel comfortable with this but I can’t do anything about it.’
“So this is it, huh?” Felicity said with such a shy voice Madison hadn’t heard voice.
But Madison couldn’t hear her. She made her way to the security entrance where only travelers could go through. She was in autopilot again.
Felicity went along with her dragging her feet with her head down. Suddenly she felt heavy and all the additional weight she was carrying on her back had nothing to do with it.
When Madison got to the entrance, she faced Felicity.
None of them said anything, but Felicity’s expression was all over her face. She was asking the same question she had a couple of minutes ago. So this is it, huh? She tried smiling at Madison, but didn’t get any response so she just threw her arms around Madison’s neck and squeezed.
Madison slowly put her arms around Felicity’s back, but didn’t squeeze back. Her attention was somewhere else. She was focused on the two friends – or at least she thought they were friends – who were trying to rearrange the weight of their suitcases. See, she thought, it happens to everyone and everybody does it. Suddenly, she was curious about the content of their luggage and she squeezed her eyes trying to focus from the distance. The blond one took out something big, but Madison couldn’t see exactly what it was. Realizing they were too far away to be able to see anything clearly, Madison’s attention diverted to the people passing her by.
People wearing comfortable clothes – sweatpants, loose shirts and way too big hoodies like Felicity’s Christmas pajamas. Madison never understood why and how people could wear such clothes for a flight. They might just wear pajamas – she didn’t doubt for a second that people might do it or even they were people that already wear them. She didn’t judge them. The airport was the only place where people don’t judge others from what they were wearing. She simply didn’t get it. The same went with how light they traveled – some of them didn’t carry a small bag with them. She was the opposite. She was always carrying at least one more bag that was allowed with a small bag hanging here or there – most probably carrying one or two books which were her tradition – and all them overweight, of course, but she would move along the wide halls and corridors as if she was carrying a feather. She loved the tradition she created. She shared it with her sister and she loved it as well, but Madison wasn’t sure she carried it out as she did. For her, this was sacred. Madison traveled a lot with her family since she was a little girl, but there was one particular journey that was life-changing for her. A big one. With her mom and sister. They were on their way back home and had a ten-hour wait time at JFK. After walking around the area and trying to figure out what else to do, Madison thought buying a book was a good killer-time option. She ended up buying two and she finished one of them on the plane. It was that good. But she wasn’t sure if it was the book, the circumstances or both, but after that moment, Madison decided she would buy a book at every airport she was leaving from. After all, it’s when one leaves that have the time to wonder around the freeshop killing time until one needs to be at the departing gate. And she did. She decided it was her tradition and she carried it out no matter how much she was already carrying on her back.
Madison gravitated her attention back at the passing strangers that were passing them by and she still didn’t get it. Sometimes she wished she could travel that light, but in the end, that wasn’t her.
A family of three, the brunette mother and two blond sisters, reminded Madison of her mother and sister. The youngest one with her soft and brown teddy bear hanging from her left hand wouldn’t stop running around and touching everything that was at her reach excited about everything that surrounded her. Madison wondered if she would be able to stay still once inside the plane. Madison couldn’t see it. Once they passed them, Madison heard the mother yelling her to stop. Her name was Annie. An elderly couple, hand in hand and with their other hand busy with their fancy canes, were taking their time to get to their destination. Madison admired them they were brave enough to go on a plane and going through all the process at their late age. She hoped she would be able to fly and jump from one place to another till she was very old. A distant and cold Chinese couple passed her side and Madison wondered what was up with them. Was it culturally or did they just got in a fight before leaving for the airport? Madison couldn’t imagine how uncomfortable it would be to travel with someone that you were mad at.
Slowly, Felicity loosened her grip around Madison and Madison copied her movements, letting her go. But Madison felt the air shift around them. There was something different. She looked at Felicity just in time to see her wiped out some tears.
Madison stared blankly at Felicity. She was nailed to the floor and felt hard and cold as a big rock, unable to move. Her hands and arms felt heavy and her muscles didn’t react to her brain orders of reaching out to her best friend.
Realizing that Madison wasn’t going to say anything and not finding her own voice, Felicity slightly waved at Madison one last time. She tried smiling knowing it didn’t reach her eyes. And with no answer from Madison, she shook her back accommodating all the bags she was carrying and turned to the security guard who was waiting for her.
Madison’s gaze was fixated on Felicity as she moved along the line. She felt strange as if someone else was occupying her body and she was looking at the scene unfold from above. Felicity was moving slowly. Was she? Or was it Madison’s imagination?
Before she even realized it, Felicity had passed security without a problem and was now on the mechanical stair looking back at Madison with a hand covering her mouth. Was she crying? Madison couldn’t tell from that far away. Felicity got to the top and with one final wave, she disappeared amongst the crowd.
Madison stared blankly at the mixed crowd Felicity was lost in now. She was amongst them. Lost. Madison blinked. Once. Twice. Felicity was gone.
She came to the realization that home, for her, was not a place, but a person. So how come she feels alright with her home being so far away? Suddenly she was crushed by the simplicity of it all: Felicity was gone. It was the last moment she would see her. Did Felicity know this? They didn’t realize they were making memories. They just knew they were having fun.
Madison crawled down to hear knees and tears started falling without permission; tears she didn’t know she was holding; desperate and sad tears; tears that felt as someone was ripping her heart; big, heavy and quick tears that were trying to fill in the hole Madison didn’t know she had and got bigger and emptier as this moment approached. She couldn’t breathe. No, she was, but wanted to stop. It hurt. It hurt so much she hugged herself as if she had the power and strength to stop the pain herself. She wanted to scream as if that would be the solution; scream all her pain away. But she couldn’t scream. Nothing came out. Why didn’t the pain stop? The floor was moving and Madison looked up but no one seemed to notice. Everyone kept walking at their normal pace. It shook and Madison fell. That’s when she realized it wasn’t the floor that moved, it was her. She couldn’t stop shaking. She now understood why her mother hugged her longer than she wanted to and as if her life depended on it when she saw her for the last time before moving to another country. Because it did.
“Welcome to Los Angeles. This is Mayor…”