I've always hated airports.
To some people, airports mean new vistas, opportunities for travel. I've never been able to see that. All I can ever feel in airports is that cattle feeling, like I'm being herded along with the rest toward our respective little gates which lead to very specialized abattoirs shaped like steel cans, cans where the music is piped in but you've got to pay to hear it, and you pony up for the chance to eat really bad food and generic soft drinks.
I don't know how long I'd been waiting at that empty concourse. It seems like I'd been sitting for days, having cross time zones and patchwork lands, my soul falling farther and farther behind me until I was afraid it'd never catch up. A fresh glossy magazine lay in my hands unread, an eyeful of beautiful people and places that tried, but failed to taunt me with it's plastic perfection. People watching was the only thing I had the energy for, and listening for the inevitable gate change over the crackly intercom. Waiting for the announcer's calm, soothing tones mixed with the roar of static, turning it into a cacophony of disjointed barks and hisses. At that point in the game all I could do was sit.
Another huge hulk of an airplane had just pulled in. The prehensile trunk of a gangway had snaked it's slickly grey canvas-covered arm to the now still aircraft and attached itself to the clean silver skin of the craft, an embrace of cold steel with rippled cloth. My eyes turned to the door which, with a tired squeal was being jammed open by a bored attendant ready to greet the flood of tired, stinking humanity with a grin as false as his hairpiece.
The concourse I had been sitting in was empty otherwise, a ringingly open, carpeted and glassed vessel into which the airplane disgorged the contents of it's stomach. What had so recently been deadly empty was suddenly filled with noise and motion, filled with people. Most had that vacant, "Where is my next gate" expression on, many had plugged so far into their 'pods that they barely registered as aware, but as always there were a few who were awake, alive and feeling. It was toward these human oasis that my eyes restlessly crawled, hungry for some sign of life.
There was the excruciatingly skinny teenage girl, eyes wide and kohl-rimmed, hair long and straight as her thin arms, stumbling with coltish steps toward some reunion. Her eyes held a sad mixture of resignation and resentment, and her very skin seem to burn with it. There was the two men, brothers or close friends, struggling to get out of the press of humanity and on to the next gate, to catch a plane that likely had already left, every movement betraying their confusion and panic. After the interminable salmon-rush of passengers marched the flight crew, clean and crisp in black and white uniforms, each wearing the bright professional faces their careers demanded while underneath the weary muscles screamed aloud for release.
With an almost comic speed the concourse was empty again. Even the plastic-smiled attendant was gone, swept up in the tide of unwashed bodies, perhaps to be dragged away to some other gate, some other protesting door needing to be forced open. That's when I saw him.
It wasn't physically possible for him to have just appeared in the long blue-carpeted hallway, but it seemed as though he had. Dropped suddenly from a ceiling tile or popped from some quasi-secret door more likely, but his appearance there startled me. He was huge, filling the hallway like a tree transplanted suddenly into an office cubicle, and I thought at first with a terrified lurch of my heart that he was wearing a dress, until I realised that it was a sarong, coloured plain dark slate, akin to what a Pacific Islander would wear.
In the somber light of the hallway his bare ebony skin and the dark cloth seemed to flow one into the other, blending him into a smooth dark smear but having caught sight of my attention he smiled, a scimitar flash in a midnight sky, sheathed as quickly as it had been drawn. His chest and arms were bare, as was his head, and all over he seemed as hairless as a stone. The skin stretched tight across his expansive muscles was as dark as old wood, so dark that the definition of his arms and neck seemed to blur one into the other until he seemed an abstract of a man, a child's crude drawing: head, arms, chest legs all simplified.
He began walking up the hallway toward me, but walking doesn't fit the performance I witnessed. His huge bare feet struck the carpeted floor like an open palm striking a horse's flank. He didn't so much put his feet down as slap them there, forcing the floor into submission beneath his stride. The dark cloth strained to restrain his muscular legs, rippling and suddenly tensing with a muffled 'pop' with each long stride. And stride he did. long, ground-devouring strides. He was almost upon me before I could begin to try to struggle upright, afraid but required to meet his approach as equals. The magazine fell to the floor with a too-loud bang in the echoing hallway, but neither of us noticed it.
Moments before he reached me he turned aside, stopping at a dull silver water fountain mounted in the wall. I watched with a kind of stunned fright as he turned toward it with a speed as though it had shouted an insult at him. He pivoted as one unit, no turn of the head following the twist of shoulders but a sudden and instant switch of direction, a change of intention that involved his entire body at the same moment. One instant he was driving toward me, the next his entire bulk was focused with frightful intensity on the brushed steel lavatory. He leaned head first toward it's pale silver bowl with the grace and unstoppable power of a mountain falling. Planting his huge, almost luridly pink palms on the edges closest to the wall he tensed his muscles and drew his hands toward himself until gripped each corner of the metal box as though his very existence relied on a firm grip. He shifted one leg backward until the material of the wrap threatened to tear, and his massive foot seemed to dig into the carpet. His broad, bare oxen's shoulders bunched, the muscles rippled like separate living creatures hiding under his skin as he leaned further into the fountain. It seemed for a startling moment that he was readying himself to shove it straight through the wall, a massive black bull driving a tiny silver-wrapped matador into the wooden railings but he stopped there, paused and gathered himself like Atlas about to shift his tiresome burden.
And then I woke up. From the dream, that is. My dream last night, or at least the only coherent part of the dream. That man, that Native. The rest is just set dressing, made up from the vague blurs I can recall, but he, he's as vivid as an oak tree lit by a lighting flash in the night. I can still see him there, his huge leg planted, his foot driven into the carpet like a shovel. I can see the single straight unbroken line my mind draws from heel to top of his head, a mathematical strength in his position. I can clearly see his huge hands gripping the square corners, his arms bunched as though he were ready to drive all his energy forward, one massive release of destruction, and yet he's not. Somehow in the dream I knew he wasn't going to do that. He was going to drink, and then...something. My mind hadn't decided yet, so it paused him there, a terrifying, massive potential, stored like the energy in a compressed spring, awaiting only the tiny ping of a neuron in his mind to drive the entire organic machine into a controlled explosion.
The mind can be a creepy place at times.