Photo by Kleigh Balugo
As dinner comes to an end and the conversation trickles to a stop as we all sip our coffee, I think about what a wonderful, beautiful thing it is to have people who will accommodate you, even when you say you don’t love them, even when you leave them in search of something better.
Turn left on Durango, straight shot until the 215 on ramp, take the 215 East towards Henderson, 6 miles to the McCarran/Sunset exit, hold your breath through the airport tunnel, keep left for terminal 1 departures, curbside passenger drop off at Southwest, “goodbye”, “we’ll see you in a few weeks”, “text us when you’re in the uber”
I feel most myself at the McCarran airport. I remember, it must have been my sophomore summer, the first time I ever flew alone. I was flying to visit my friend who lived in Encinitas. My dad dropped me off before work and I could tell he was stressed because he was repeating himself over and over, are you sure you have your ID, they won’t let you through without it and you know how to get to the gates after you go through security, right and just be sure to keep an eye on your bag, don’t leave it anywhere, but as soon as he pulled out of passenger drop off, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of calm. I think it was the sheer uncertainty of being alone in an unfamiliar place, being able to wander and explore without any hindrance. I thrived off of it.
As I check my suitcase and watch it roll by on the conveyor belt and walk absentmindedly to security, I think less of how much I love traveling alone, and more about leaving home again. It’s this same feeling that I got on that early morning in August while packing up the car for my move to L.A.; this incessant drawing back to Vegas, this mundane place I worked so hard to get away from. It’s almost hypocritical. As I walk to my gate, ignoring the signs, I think about this poem I read in my English composition class a few weeks ago, and how maybe Wanda Coleman and I aren’t so different. How although a city can wear you down and tire you out and every cell in your body is screaming get out get out get out, there will always be a small voice in the back of your mind urging you to come back. maybe, I think as I hand over my credit card to the girl working the Jamba Juice register, maybe my work here isn’t finished yet, maybe i still want something, maybe i just need my wings, some sort of validation for my time, and then it’ll all be over. When someone asks me where home is, I say vegas is home, with no resentment and no malice. When I think of home, I think safe zone, and Vegas is safe zone. Vegas is comfort, is easy, is simple, is in my bones and on my heart. Safe zone is the reason I left, and safe zone is what urges me back. I think Wanda Coleman knew that her home, despite its flaws and injustice, was safe. That’s what it could give back to her: safety and comfort. She gave herself to the city, and in return, the city offered her its knowledge and its streets and a place to lay her head at night. It’s what Vegas is trying to give to me, it’s saying you can go as far as you’d like, wander for as long as you can stand, but just know i’ll be here when you get back. I accept.