Day 7 in Chicago.
“Excuse me. Pardon me. Excuse me, can you let my friend pass?” I was a quick walker and squeezed through quickly. The man on the escalator had set his suitcase next to him after I’ve passed.
We rushed to the counter to check-in. “Would you like to check in that bag?” She gestured at my friend’s third bag.
“No, I think we can consolidate it,” I said.
My friend didn’t think so though. This dilemma went on for minutes until the lady at the counter told us that we needed to rebook our flight anyways since check-in had happened, and boarding closed an hour before departure. What?
The time they gave us was just time for flight departure…
I held my tongue through the check-in since we had to rebook. I had flown a few times, but I wasn’t assertive enough to emphasize that we could try to fit in all belongings. Taking deep breaths, I thought about how our failures are our best teachers, and sometimes, it is best not to add fuel to the flames.
A security guard saw us waiting and started chatting with us. Since he was Taiwanese, he wondered why two Asian girls were just sitting there. It must have baffled him why we were alone.
“We’re American,” my friend piped up when he asked, but I understood that to him, family background is the most important identity in his culture, not nationality or birth.
He stared at us.
“Cots are provided in the lobby,” he said.
In a couple of hours, we grabbed blankets and pillows and soon fell asleep on the cot. I woke up at 4am with no problem. The lobby was as cold as a refrigerator, and the lights were so bright that you had to wake up.
I didn’t get enough sleep, and neither did my friend. We boarded the flight, watched the big Windy City become smaller and smaller. We’re on top of big shoulders. A happy and ambitious trip that ended a little later.
I rolled the Navajo ghost bead bracelet around my wrist, which was supposed to offer protection from evil spirits. I thought of the time I picked it up in New Mexico and felt thankful for how accessible traveling has become. We just landed in LAX at noon.
Years later, the trip itself would fade from ten days to a few moments. The conversation on Chicago usually starts with the question of how did we survive alone. If they asked me more for the story, I’d begin with the train ride that took us across half the country. The people who are eager to get to the destination would have found our trip too appalling to take, but we’ve enjoyed every moment. If they asked how I’d say we stood on the shoulders of giants. We went here because it started off with me hearing about Chicago all the time.