At least Wilbur hadn’t died.
My orange and gold flecked fish was still swimming lethargically in his small globe-shaped tank that rested on the bookshelf. The pudgy guy’s fins were drooping as tiredly as my sagging shoulders under the weight of two bulging suitcases.
Since he hadn’t died, I imagined the poor animal had gone stir crazy in its constant circular view of the living room. I knew I couldn’t stand being stuck in one place like that and had the nearly 50 hour delay to prove it.
Other than the fatigue that seemed evident in his stout and scaley body, but which might just have been a subconscious transfer of my own weary state, Wilbur didn’t seem any worse for wear upon having been abandoned for an extra two days.
The room itself smelled like the algae floating in his once clear but now cloudy water. Dust the color of the small tank’s pebbly floor coated every flat surface. The air was musty and stale but at least wasn’t pressurized for 30,000 feet. Somehow the lack of pristine sanitation in defense of a traveling public felt welcoming.
I dumped my luggage in a heap on the carpet and slipped out of my sandals. The fuzzy texture greeted my toes like familiar little fingers that massaged my soles. It wasn’t tile. It wasn’t hard packed, industrial strength carpet. It wasn’t concrete. It wasn’t another line to stand in so that I could get to another ticket counter and try and figure out another flight to get free.
In long, knee popping strides, I headed to the window. Flicking the latch I shoving against the frame.
It wouldn’t budge.
With a moaning growl, I put my tired shoulder into the sticking panes and heaved.
The window thudded through the disuse and slid open the rest of the way. A waft of pre-dawn air gusted into the room, swapping the staleness for the scents of dew and distant exhaust from the highway.
I took a deep breath and tried to blow out the flavor of unlaundered clothes, stale coffee and newspaper that was unique to airports.
Rubbing my red eyes generated a shower of sparkles that danced before the growing sunrise. I raised my arms overhead and savored the lack of cramped space. Even on my toes, my fingers barely brushed the ceiling. I swung my arms wide and twisted and bent in ways never meant for a flying tube or the hard cushioned seats that forced passengers into L positions for unseemly amounts of time.
The insistent gurgle from Wilbur’s tank turned me away from my blood circulating routine. I wasn’t the only one who was desperately waiting a change of pace.
Taking the small spice shaped bottle of flakes I twisted the cap off, took a pinch and sent a sprinkle of orange and green papery petals onto the surface of the water.
He swam slowly towards the first descending fleck. His fishy snout sucked in the dissolving green with one tentative little peck. The sagging tail and dorsal fin seemed to perk up a bit. He twisted towards some of the others, still swimming tentatively but with rising enthusiasm.
Whether he thought it was an illusion or dream or that some benefactor had taken pity on his trapped little enclosure, I couldn’t say.
I guess it didn’t really matter. He was fed and I was home.