Odd-shaped people staring at their watches. I know it’s subjective, but the truth of it is inescapable: these people are odd-shaped. It doesn’t seem to phase them though. They’re all doing their thing, as if they haven’t noticed what I’ve noticed. I survey my surroundings and the evidence mounts–normal-looking people are now in the minority. I’m not sure when the transition happened, but to some degree everyone in my immediate vicinity is odd. Old guy with a baseball cap placed just atop his head muttering into his cell phone, and then looking into the handset after each sentence. Slumpy guy poured into his overalls, straps hanging from rounded shoulders, abdomen like a beach ball. Three globe-shaped women with matching frosted perms and fragile stick legs. Muppet-looking adolescent wearing short-shorts and a midriff shirt, fidgeting and wriggling in platform tennis shoes. A band of leather-faced hunchbacked matrons in sunglasses, gossiping. An old bald woman in a wheelchair. An albino.
What’s going on? Where am I? I struggle to maintain my own sense of normalcy, but I’m starting to feel odd-shaped myself. My whole body is thrumming and live, and I can feel every joint. Pin pricks in my feet. The vertebrae in my neck piled on top of each other like phone books. Dry skin on my face taut and itchy as they announce the four hour delay.
Moans from the odd-shaped folks. The carnies are disappointed with the news. They’ll be late for their respective sideshows. Visions of hapless performers sleeping in rank naugahyde chair-benches. I can’t summon an emotion though, because they’ve already thrown me from the narrative of subjectivity. Now I’m an outsider, and I’ve lost the privilege of contextual reaction. So: fog. The delay may blow away, they say, but it may not. The odd-shaped people look at each other. I’m invisible. A four hour delay from what? Aren’t we already here?
I am hungry though. I still have a stash of peanuts in my jacket pocket. A freezer bag of Mom’s monster chocolate chip cookies in my suitcase. I’m good.
Who are all these people anyway? Leopard prints and sideburns and military men shaved bald. Every time I try to get a handle on the culture it grows stranger, pulling away from me. Tantalus’ eyebrows furrow as his fingers play at the cookie bag.
Some people are all right. Some do provide calm rather than throbbing discomfort. Look over there: the affectionate Asian couple lost in the moment. I respect that. They’re going to make it through this.
But the majority are too wrapped up in the moment. “Delayed five minutes,” whispered conspiratorially, one odd-shaped individual to his odd-shaped familiar. Why waste the breath to say it? Marking the passage of time. Reciting the obvious, the inevitable. “Here I go breathing again. There’s more air to breathe. I breathe it.” Breathers all around me. Billow bags scuffling about looking at things with their jelly-filled eyes. Taking it all in. If one of them touches me I’ll scream.
But now I’m quite hungry. A cookie.