Standing at the wide, towering window,
standing out from the others as usual –
back turned from the long runway view
that the innocent, lucky children gawk at.
The loud rumble of airplane engines,
and I can tell if they are rising or landing,
but the familiarity only twists me into knots
so I turned my back on the cruel machines.
Watching the people sitting at the gate.
Such an apt name, I wonder who chose it?
For them it’s an open gate into wonders,
but for me it will lock shut after I pass through:
a heavy gate in a wall topped with broken glass.
Friends and relatives are on the other side,
but I was never really inside that high wall –
I was where I am now, standing in the gate.
Families sit in this threshold laughing together,
flicking with shining, greedy eyes through
glossy travel guides and smart phrase books;
imagining and planning that exciting getaway.
A holiday, a break, a time for relaxation and fun,
and when they think of the people left behind
they talk of tacky souvenirs and missed opportunities.
They talk of what they will do when they return.
The book in my bag is heavy with knowledge,
a burden of all that I need to know but don’t.
The red marks scoring out where I’ve gone wrong,
mixing up this grammar with Spanish or Chinese,
pronouncing this word as though it were French,
but at least a good mark on the elementary test.
I hopefully won’t make a complete fool of myself.
The test will go with the other five – or wait, six?
The air hostess starts calling out the seat numbers,
and the travelers are fidgeting with excitement.
Parents point out the planes to their children –
we’re going to fly on that to a place you’ll love!
I look at the planes, that others see as thrilling,
and all I see is a big, flying transport to prison
and I wish I had the courage to hijack it back.
But when it’s my turn, I join the boarding line.