I will be posting a series of blog posts tagged as "Big Fish". I'd like to thank someone special to my heart, Cole, for helping to bring a spark of creativity back to my writing. These posts are loosely based in idea only off a film we saw together called "Big Fish" featuring an all-star cast to include Ewan McGreggor and Danny DeVito. If you've not seen the movie, you absolutely must. It has become something I identify closely with, and anyone who has ever spent time in Second Life and has memories there, then you too have your own Big Fish.
Our Avatars are an extension of our personalities and the experiences we have in Second Life through our avatar become part of our real memories. These adventures in a virtual world while entirely "real" (in a sense) to us are nothing more than Big Fish stories to other who have not had the joy of such an incredible and immersive world. I hope you all enjoy my personal Big Fish and have many of your own to look back and smile on.
((This is not our first Big Fish story we've created together. Earlier ones were based entirely on SL experiences. Having made the decision to meet in Real Life we started working on a future Big Fish story about that up-coming meeting as a way to relieve some of the anxiety of this huge step.
Written by my through his perspective.))
As I lined up with the rest of the Lemmings to leave the plane I realized just how sleepy I really was. It had been a long sleepless night. I’d glance at the clock thinking hours had passed and surely it would be time to get up, only to find the clock minute hand had only moved an agonizing half an inch. It felt like it was going to take a lifetime for those three days to finally arrive.
Three days. It seemed like a decent amount of time when we were making plans. But now that everything was moving in fast-forward, even with my fatigue induced fog, three days seemed like only a blink of an eye. How is it that time can be so elastic? How can it can it be allowed to shift speed leaving the innocent party to stumble along trying to keep up? Time, it seems, has a twisted sense of humor.
Someone cleared their throat and I realized the Lemmings were finally shuffling their feet forward, so I followed suit. One foot in front of the other that felt both agonizingly slow and far too fast at the same time. Would she be waiting for me? Would she recognize me? Would I recognize her? And then what?
That was the big question we both feared, the what next part. And now that the answer was so close I could almost taste it, along with the stale airplane air that clung to my tongue, I was suddenly unsure. I had to readjust the grip of my duffle bag to keep it from slipping from my moist palm. At least I didn’t have to worry about the airline losing my luggage this trip as I chose to carry everything with me in one carry-on bag. Everything I’d need for a weekend fit neatly into one carry-on. One weekend, three days, and I cursed time as I finally stepped off the plane into the terminal.
Sunny Florida. The plane arrived on time touching down at exactly 11:25am. A few minutes to taxi, another couple minutes to disembark the plan, and I was suddenly submerged in a sea of bright sunbeams streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the terminal. Pulling my sunglasses from my pocket I quickly slipped them on to help ease the pain from the glaring bright light. It was a warm happy scene, but my eyes were just too tired for the radiating brightness.
No longer having to squint I could finally see where the other Lemmings went, so I adjusted my duffle bag one more time and followed them out of the terminal to the main area. That’s where she said she’d meet me. Was it really that much warmer here already, I thought shifting my duffle bag finally to my other hand and wiping the clamminess of my palm onto my pants.
It wasn’t quite as bright in here so I was able to take off the sunglasses. Looking around I could see that I wasn’t the only shell-shocked traveler unsure of where to proceed next. There was a tall square pillar just at the edge of what appeared to be a solarium so I leaned casually against it and let my bag drop to my feet. That looked casual right? Did Florida have a wattage control for their sun down here? Above the center of the solarium sunlight didn’t just stream lazily down, it burst through the glass roof with a force I wouldn’t have believed possible. Even the dust in the air was swirling and dancing in the light, animated by the intensity of the beams.
The light was definitely doing something to wake me up. More alert I slowly scanned the entire opening. She wasn’t here. Yet. I reminded myself to add yet to my thoughts. Jacksonville’s a big city; maybe she’s caught up in traffic? Maybe she was delayed getting away from home? No, she’s not here yet. Maybe in a few more minutes? I glanced at my wrist, my bare wrist, and shook my head. Right, I was supposed to get another watch last week. Instead of counting the minutes on my would-be watch, I counted the travelers walking by.
I took more notice now realizing not all were Lemmings. Oh there were many Lemmings around to be sure, but that one there, in the bright sundress and sandals, a light step to her gait, a purse and small carry on, she was eager to get to her destination. Happy even. Was she headed out for a weekend such as mine? And those two there, the man in the crisp Navy uniform and the pretty little girl holding his hand, sadness and tangible longing in the way they looked at each other. This was a sad goodbye. I shook my head, I didn’t want to think about sad goodbyes. I sighed. Three days.
Shifting my weight to my other leg I realized my foot had fallen asleep. Where was she? What time was it? Leaning over to grab my duffle bag I pushed away from the pillar with a purpose now. My own stride was a little awkward, as my half-asleep foot seemed to have a mind of its own. But I needed to find a clock. There, just over LDC display of flight arrivals and departures was the time. What? Wait! That can’t be right. How was it suddenly 3pm? Impossible! I turned and walked to the gift shop.
“Excuse me. Can you tell me the time, please?” I asked the kid behind the counter. He appeared to be in high school, but obviously coordinated enough to not only work but also remember to wear a watch. I shook my wrist is agitation.
“Five minutes after three.” He informed me. My face must have been a sight. I could feel the emotions start to take form on my face then change before fully developed and move onto another emotion, morphing several times before settling into utter and complete confusion. “Is something wrong?” The kid asked.
My defense mechanism from years of keeping people from knowing what’s really going on in my head. I just smiled. “Can I get a newspaper?” The kid handed me the current daily edition of USA Today, of course. Paying for my paper I walked to an unoccupied row of cushioned benches and found a seat in the back out of the way. Sure I could call her, I thought to myself spying the pay phones and suddenly remembering the cell phone in my pocket, turned off for the flight. But if she was standing me up why give her the satisfaction? No, I’d wait it out. Soon as I calmed down I go to the ticket counter and change my return flight to the next flight home today.
Snapping the paper open my thoughts were stopped in their tracks.
Thursday, July 8, 2010.
Not July 9th.
I felt myself getting a little light headed and took deep breath sucking in the air suddenly realizing I had been holding my breath. I’m a full day early. No wonder she isn’t here. She didn’t stand me up. She’ll be here, in 20 hours, but she’ll be here! The paper in my hand drooped.
HOW had I managed to get on the wrong flight, the flight leaving a whole day earlier? How was that possible? What type of incompetent staff did the airlines employ these days? Hadn’t they cracked down on all that after 911? Why didn’t someone say “Sir, you’re here a day early. You’re flight doesn’t leave until tomorrow.”? And I had to fly home in three.. no four days under the care of these same people? Maybe I’ll rent a car. I pulled my boarding pass from my pocket ready to head to the ticket counter to make a scene when my legs froze half way up out of the bench. I stood frozen there for half a second before collapsing back onto the bench. I rubbed my eyes, looked again, and then let out a deep sigh.
Departure Date: Thursday July 8, 2010 LaGuardia Airport
Arrival Date: Thursday July 8, 2010 Jacksonville International Airport
Right there in black and white. I’d booked the wrong flight. My mind, so eager to get down here had subconsciously picked an earlier day to leave and it never registered consciously. So here I am, in Florida, a day early. A day early! No longer Three days but FOUR! Smiling broadly I reached for my cell phone powering it on. Then immediately powered it back off and slipped it back into my pocket. No, I couldn’t call her. She told me she had a million things to do to get ready. Besides, she couldn’t just run out unscheduled. She had a patient to take care of, to coordinate her schedule around. I sighed again. No, I would just wait it out here and tomorrow she and I would have a good laugh. I sat back on the bench, opening the paper again, only this time without the previous annoyance. What’s going on in the rest of the world today?
“Did he stop breathing?”
“Is he dead?”
“If he’s dead can I have his watch?”
“He’s not dead and he’s not wearing a watch, you idiot!”
The strange voices didn’t seem to make sense. Its like they were talking into a bucket or a can. The voices had that ring of hollowness. Maybe I was dreaming? That’s probably it. I hate when my dreams do that though. I was having this incredible dream, I was in a meadow with her, and the weather was perfect. And it was just getting to the really good parts; I could tell when everything shifted to this… new dream that didn’t make any sense. Maybe if I got more comfortable I could find my way back to that other dream. I turned over and immediately realized I wasn’t dreaming.
There was the sound of paper wrinkling, the fleeting feeling of falling, and then the air knocked from my lungs as I landed on something cold and hard. The strange voices started snickering. Opening my eyes I realized the paper was actually the newspaper that had obviously fallen open over my face when I fell asleep. And the linoleum floor of the airport waiting area was the cold and hard object I’d landed on. Looking up, I realized the voices came from a motley crew gang standing just a few feet away. That was the only word I had for them. There were four of them, each carrying a backpack fairly filled to overflowing, the tallest one towing a luggage cart, each wearing an assortment of miss-matched items of clothing, three of them, all fairly tall, standing slightly behind the shortest one who was appraising me with a set of eagle eyes, color unknown.
Officer: Can you give me a description, height, hair color, eye color?
Me: Tall and short, all various shades of gray and brown.
Oh what a wonderful eyewitness I would make. Who knew color blindness could be so inconveniencing? I half wondered if this strange gang would take pity on me and maybe leave me alone for my handicap? Somehow I doubted that.
I groaned as I pushed myself off the floor acknowledging I was definitely going to have a few bruises from the fall. Why didn’t I call her? Why didn’t I get a hotel room? A taxi? Rent a car? All obvious choices now that I’d had a little sleep.
The short one was talking again. I forced myself to focus.
“Don’t try to play the dumb foreigner with us. You were reading an English newspaper, so I know you understand me. I’m gonna as you again, just what were you doing on our benches?”
It was more of a demand than a question. Someone had obviously never gone through public speaking. I turned and looked at the bench noting it was rather plain, unmarked without any names or symbols of any kind. Turning my gaze back to the band of airport rats I shrugged and said, “There were no names on it.”
I guess the bigger one in the back didn’t like my condescending tone of voice as I noticed him readjust something in his grip. A baggage tie. Seriously? A baggage tie? It was all I could do to not roll my eyes.
Another one spoke, it was the voice that wanted my watch. “Ooh, we have ourselves a Yankee. Aren’t you a little too far from home snowbird?” The other two in the back snickered again, the short one in the front continued to assess me, her hand obviously fidgeting with something in her pocket.
I stretched my arms out only half pretending to stifle a yawn, slipped my hands into my pants pockets and shrugged as I leveled my gaze on the smart-mouthed one. “Well I hear the water is better down here so I thought I’d come have a taste. But I suspect you find the water better down here too, ay?” He still had a touch of a Canadian accent and his eyes narrowed and he took a step forward when I called him on it. The tall one swung the cart around in front of him and the air around me became electrically charged with the tension.
“Alright alright. Settle down.” The short one was saying now, her hands stretched out at her sides as if to hold the others back. The object she was toying with in her pocket now visible, a baggage tie. Now that I looked closely all four of them had these baggage ties clutched in their fingers with a purpose.
Casually I pulled my hands out of my own pockets and raised them about shoulder level in a frozen shrug, a ‘hands in the air’ kind of move usually meant to convey no harm meant and shows hands clear of any weapons. On my right hand I spun my key ring, dangling off one side was the delta wings that I was given as a complementary flight gift off the other end was the laser toy used to annoy… I mean amuse my cats. The key ring spun around my finger like a miniature lop-sided set of nun chucks.
The key ring stopped spinning and I held the laser toy in my grasp, hands still half in the air, a casual smile on my lips as I appraised the leader. I’d done nothing more wrong than falling asleep on a public airport bench. The pack of airport rats, trapped in time in some terminal like a bad B movie was not about to oust me. Tomorrow I would see her and be well rested with a harrowing tale of my victory over a vicious gang out to maim me with their deadly baggage ties. My lips curled up in a devilish smile.
“Well, I hope you find the water to your liking.” The short one was talking again as she eyed my laser warily. She took a slow deliberate step backward and lowered her arms, but not putting her hands back into her pockets. “Let go check out Gate A, I saw Johnny’s girl heading that way when we specifically told them that was our Gate after they lost last week.”
The mouthy one started to protest but the short one gave him a look that easily read he shouldn’t question her decision. In unison all four seemed to relax, though not completely dropping their guard, and they shuffled quietly down the wide hall and around the corner, presumably off to Gate A. I caught a few hushed words that sounded like “His bench” and “Laser” and “Crazy”.
Chuckling, I sat back down on the bench no longer tired but craving a hot cup of coffee. Wasn’t there a Starbucks back at one of the corners surrounding the solarium? Grabbing my duffle bag I headed off on a quest for my liquid black gold, key ring in hand just in case.