I take a bite of the panini that I don’t want. I’m unfulfilled by this act.
The panini was purchased with blood money. That is, it was given to me in exchange for a voucher that I was given in exchange for my silence. Or rather, my not-loudness.
That’s why they hand out these airport beverage vouchers, to keep you from going crazy with the thought of everything you’re going to have to change as a result of their actions. Your arrival times. Your ride from the airport. Your planned hours of sleep in between flight announcements and forced-conversations with talkative seat mates.
Their actions, of course, are to change your flights around and send you in search of the checked luggage they somehow misplaced.
I sit here now, chewing a bit of this panini that I don’t want, imagining my checked bag, carried by the clockwork of this airport, somewhere out there in the confusing (and, I imagine, sepia-toned) collection of springs and pulleys and steam vents, precariously balanced at the edge of some kind of sprocket as it monotonously rotates in time with larger and smaller sprockets that meet it, teeth-on-teeth.
I don’t want this panini, but I had to get it. If I hadn’t, the airline would not have been punished for the bad weather that made them change my flight and send my bag out on some wild sprocket somewhere, and then I would be powerless and unfulfilled, swimming in a sea of sprockets and springs and revenge paninis and security queues.
I would drown in the bureaucracy.
It would be tragic.
So I chew. I swallow. I eat the whole damn panini, because if I don’t, that means the weather, the airlines, the sprockets and the monotonous, metal grind of teeth, have won.
And I can’t let that happen. Not today.
Update: February 14, 2017
This was one of the first pieces from my Exiles newsletter, and the shift from pure essay to narrative-essay is a stark contrast from what came before. The change was based on what I had learned about my written voice while writing my first narrative book, My Exile Lifestyle.