Beyond the windows the city suffocates and inside the airport an improvised social order has emerged, people placing themselves in like company within the first few hours, migrating either toward others or slinking from them, watching suspiciously. The snow continues its relentless entombment, mountains of snow, so much snow that it seems like a joke, a cataclysm and a joke. Families cluster and gravitate together, a kindred alliance in the struggle to raise children in such an unpredictable world. The erudite, greatly outnumbered, concede space to the philistines, retreating to their darkened corners where they can read or sleep in peace. Lonely travelers linger about the fringes of the terminal and three concourses, sitting in bars desperate to spread the microbe of random discussion. Outside the world is gray and cold and buried in fifty, perhaps sixty inches of snow and ice but inside travelers of exotic speech and color band together and sit against the walls with their luggage next to them, the contents unfolded and unused.
Situated throughout the entire airport there are precisely 891 people, 28 of which are reading books, 41 reading magazines. Only one of those books would be considered by bibliophiles and some librarians, not to mention teachers and many linguists and of course writers and readers of particularly rigid standards, to be a great work, and it sits open faced to pages 384 and 385 on the lap of its sleeping lord. Five hundred and twelve people attend non-literary electronic devices such as television or portable phones and music players and video games. Among the sources of such rapt attention are popular films and pre-recorded sporting events downloaded onto small digital screens. Fifty-four people throughout the airport at this late hour are engaged in dialogue with other people or with themselves, speaking at this very moment, 30 of which are connected to their partner via cellular satellite. Forty-nine adults are staring into the screen of their mobile computers, reading, studying, communicating, formulating their private mathematical balances, chatting on their preferred discussion boards, all of them drunk with fatigue and boredom after two days of near complete immobility. Four children run in circles of Gate 3C, chasing one another and yelping gleefully. A dog sleeps snoring in its plastic cage, another metaphor for the ennui that defines this frozen city in miniature. Two women kiss very passionately in a secluded corner of gate 21A and a young man smokes a cigarette in the bathroom stall in concourse B, fanning unsuccessfully at the smoke with his hands. Of the 412 people fast asleep, 408 of them are dreaming about death.
In the terminal of the airport an impressionable young man has filled his head with ideas of revolution and armed struggle and other romanticized concepts he doesn’t fully understand and yet he’s certain he’s carrying with him all sorts of mental weaponry and knowledge, he’s enlightened, he is the guns of his generation locked and loaded and primed for destruction, and he gets into a bickering match with a much older and equally obstinate man about the difference between Republicans and Democrats, or maybe it was Catholics and Protestants or perhaps warm water and tepid water, and the confrontation of words quickly escalates into shoving and pulling and then rolling about the carpet and two armed guards intervene and haul the fighting men into the underground lair in the belly of the terminal, and government men in suits interrogate them one by one for hours, nearly torturing them, and the revolutionary, or the self-proclaimed revolutionary, rather, begins sobbing under the pressure and he tells the suited government men that he needs to speak with his mother, please, just leave me alone, I just wanna go home.
There is a doctor in the terminal, actually there are two doctors. One of them waits patiently and attentive in wait until his services are needed, the other sleeps with avowed designs of concealing from everyone the fact that he is indeed a trained doctor. He will not deliver any babies tonight, no sir, and no matter what, he will not put his mouth upon another’s and breathe, breathe, unless it’s the soft sugary mouth of an attractive woman, perhaps even a teenage girl with glossed lips and the tiniest of blonde hairs rimming her mouth. He smiles and his hips shift and then thrust slightly as he sleeps.
To read the story in its entirety, you’re gonna have to buy the book when it comes out.