It was like a wailing competition was taking place on the plane and the 4-year-old behind me was the overachiever among them. I don’t recall ever crying on the plane as a kid, at least for a whole hour nonstop. But at that moment I couldn’t recall much due to lack of sleep. I wrapped myself in my jacket and popped my headphones on in hopes to reduce the noise. It was either that or I start sharing my views on parenting to my neighbors.
The plane landed in Denver Colorado at 8:05 a.m. As the pilot turned off the seat belt signal, the choir of babies had settled down. Everyone became antsy as people started filing out to the middle aisle and to the front of the plane. I was in no rush. My next flight didn’t leave until 8 p.m.
Colorado is definitely one of the places on my bucket list. I’ve seen so many gorgeous pictures from hikers and travelers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a situation to go hiking. I had my luggage to haul around with me. My boots, that I thought were snow boots, got my socks wet after a few feet of walking in the snow. Also, I had missed my flight before and was extremely paranoid of missing another one.
Normally, trying to think ahead makes me anxious. I list all the things I can do, get overwhelmed and then fall over in a dizzy spell, overall accomplishing nothing. I spend way too much time thinking and not doing, so I decided to change things up. I was going to focus on the present moment and trust my gut. Baby steps. After coming to this decision, my gut became vocal. I wondered around the airport but didn’t see anything that appealed to me. I walked up to a balding man in a polo shirt behind the information desk. He informed me that for $9 I could take the train to downtown and back.
It was negative four degrees outside, which sounds like a nightmare to someone who has spent most of their life in places that make people say, “It’s because of global warming.” I put my hood over my head, bought my ticket and boarded the train. The cabin was mostly quiet except for a group of guys who were excited to begin going through their vacation plans. I sat by the window and watched the snow glisten in the sun.
I spent way too much time looking at the menu than I intended. Don’t think too much about it. I saw the picture of the banana honey pancakes and went with that. Upon leaving the cafe, I pulled out my camera and began walking around on foot. Families were circling around the outdoor ice-skating rink. City workers were shoveling snow off the sidewalks. Almost everyone walked around with a cup of coffee in their hand.
After a few hours of walking, I got fed up with my so-called snow boots. My socks were socked and I was constantly slipping like Bambi on ice. I walked into a few shoe stores down 16th Street Mall. I picked up a pair of hiking boots at Payless. As I stood in line to pay, the card reader at the register started having issues. I stood there anxiously waiting. You have no where to be. There’s no rush. I turned around to the guy standing behind me. He had long grey hair and was wearing all black.
“Are you from around here?” I ask.
“Yeah, I would say I’m pretty much a local.”
“Do you know any good places to take pictures? Attractions, maybe? I’m only here for a few hours.”
He suggested the bridge by the transit center, which apparently is a popular place. He asked me where I was visiting from. When I told him that I lived in Austin, he lit up. He told me about how he use to be in the military and would visit Austin frequently when he was based in Kileen. After serving in Iraq, he came back to the States and left the military. He dealt with PTSD, got addicted to heroine, and at one point became homeless. He now works at a restaurant on 17th Street.
“It’s a mundane job, but it’s simple and I enjoy it,” he said. “I also love my couch. You don’t realize how amazing a couch is until you don’t have one.”
The snow crunched underneath my new boots and my warm toes wiggled happily. I took some random turns, entered buildings and climbed stairs. Occasionally, whenever someone looked at me, I got uncomfortable. I decided to look up and smile at those people even though it made me feel weird. I figured, the worse that could happen is someone ignoring me. Just act like you belong. As they say, fake it until you make it. An old man, holding a cup of coffee, complimented my boots.