Autobiographical Fiction and Synopsis: When I was 10, I broke away from my mother at the airport, and found myself being followed around by an older, green-eyed man. Most of this story is true except for the ending and the bickering between my mother and I.
Placed on time-out at the Ontario airport, Danielle made the fateful decision to wander the airport alone and ride the escalator when her mother’s back was turned. She and her mother were dropping off their cousin, Rosa and her husband who had come in from Florida a week before. Danielle’s parents recently divorced and a lot of relatives had been coming down to California to visit and check in on her mother the last few months. Unfortunately, the relationship between Danielle and her mother had been deteriorating for the last few months as the two battled over everything from unlocked front doors to spilled juice on the carpet.
Danielle waited quietly beside her mother in the line for the luggage check-in area. The check-in area was completely dark and abandoned with no attendants to be found anywhere. The unmoving line was growing longer and Danielle was absolutely sure she would be the first child in California to die from absolute boredom. Danielle stood up on her tip-toes and whispered to her mother, Lorena, if she didn’t die from sheer boredom, she would shoot herself if someone didn’t hurry up and pick up their cousin’s luggage.
Lorena’s shimmery, brown-painted lips flipped downwards and she snatched a chunk of Danielle’s left arm and pinched it.
“Danielle,” She hissed through her clenched jaw, “You don’t say that in an airport.”
Danielle’s eyes started to water and she attempted to pry her mom’s hand off of her arm. “Mom, that hurts!”
Rosa spoke up in a hushed tone. “Lorena, stop you’re hurting her.”
Her mother gave her one last hard pinch and swiftly let go of her arm, nervously smiling at the other travelers, presenting her best, nothing’s wrong, face. “You asked to come along. Sit over there by that family and be quiet.”
Lorena pointed to the wall on the other side of them that was made up of large floor-to-ceiling windows and several sliding glass doors in between. There were a few families squatting on the floor surrounded by their wild children running around near the glass doors.
Danielle pouted. “Can I at least have your phone to play games?”
Her mother sighed. “Absolutely not. You purchased all of these games without my permission last time. This is your punishment, now go sit down and be quiet.”
Angry, Danielle folded her arms across her chest and loudly stomped over to the wall opposite of the line. She sat down next to a gorgeous, blonde family speaking in a foreign language Danielle couldn’t make out. Lorena watched her daughter for a moment, her eyes small and tight like the opening of a walnut shell. Once Danielle sat down, Lorena turned around and continued her conversation with Rosa and her husband. Distracting herself, Danielle smoothed down her yellow dress and used her finger to connect the splashes of little sunflowers upon the hem. Growing bored, she looked up from her dress, and observed the airport.
It was broad daylight and the airport was partially packed with groups of buzzing travelers. Scattered around the lobby were tourists topped by colorful souvenirs, hurried business executives in dark suits, and jet-lagged families wearing neck pillows over pajamas. Danielle’s brown eyes skimmed down the hall to the center of the airport which was alive with noise. An automated female voice over the intercom advised guests to drink Starbucks and eat at Coldstone Creamery amidst the repeated dinging of the many elevators holding rushed travelers, and the skidding wheels of suitcases dragged across the freshly waxed, square-tiled floor. But, it wasn’t the vibrant noise and the colorful people and the nervous excitement of upcoming destinations which caught Danielle’s attention. No, not at all. It was the two long escalators in the center of the airport. The California sun shone strong through the enormous airport windows and enveloped the escalators in a warm, bright light. The shiny smooth metal panels on each escalator gleamed under the sun and it’s heavy iron steps lifted the guests to the second floor on the right side and flew them back down on the left. Danielle wanted to fly upstairs to the second floor with the rest of the dark-cladded, business suit wearing angels. Who knows what wonders the second floor of the airport could offer to her. There could be candy, rides, and even a tap-dancing clown. At the very least, she would no longer be bored. Her mother wouldn’t care anyway as long as she stayed out of her way.
Danielle glanced at her mother who had her back turned and appeared to be in deep conversation. She was growing restless and she could no longer ignore the glow of the magical escalators. Danielle had stepped away from her family many times before without anyone knowing better. When her mother was taking particularly long at Target or Costco, Danielle would sneak away between different aisles, often searching for and locating the toy aisle. She always made it back before her mother even realized she was gone.
Danielle jumped up from the floor and quickly walked away from her mother and the long, unmoving line they had been standing in for years. Walking towards the heavenly escalators, her plastic flip flops smacked against the tile with each step and her dress swished and swayed with each bounce. She was walking alone in an airport like she was an adult and would be riding the escalators, all alone, with other adults. Staring straight at the escalator, shining and sparkling under sunrays, Danielle started to giggle at her own boldness of breaking away from her family and taking a ride, or maybe three, on an airport escalator. She assumed airport escalators had to be much more sophisticated than mall escalators.
Walking straight down the hall, she started to feel something strange. She could feel tension and energy prickling behind her, the same feeling she had when someone left the television on a white, staticky channel. Goosebumps started to form and break out on her arms and legs and she stopped skipping. Danielle started to walk a little slower and the tension grew louder, thicker. Walking as slow as she would inside the shallow end of a swimming pool, she gently craned her neck to the left and saw a tall, lanky man directly behind her. Unlike her medium-bronzed skin, this man was as pale as French vanilla and his eyes were large and a deep, swampy green. He was too close to her and she knew something was wrong. Her body was on high alert by this man’s close proximity and presence. The man wore a green and grey checkered flannel, faded blue jeans, and he didn’t match anyone else in the airport. He wasn’t carrying a suitcase or a briefcase, he wasn’t traveling with anyone, and he didn’t appear to be on a business trip or on vacation. He was a single man wandering the airports neither as an employee or a traveler. Danielle noticed he wasn’t looking at her when she glanced up at him. He was staring straight ahead toward the escalators like he, too, had been planning to ride them up and down. The man stepped closer, his hand touched the tips of her curly, jet-black hair. And, Danielle instantly knew this man was following her.
Perhaps, he’s setting up for the carnival on the second floor, Danielle thought to herself. This was a comforting thought but her mother taught her well enough to know this wasn’t the case. She knew she couldn’t ride the escalators anymore. Not with this man walking behind her. She could feel the man lightly tugging her hair as his body advanced and his presence became louder. Danielle’s heart started to violently gallop against her chest and her breaths became harder and shorter and she knew something wasn’t right. Something was wrong with what he was doing, something was wrong with the green-eyed man behind her. And, her mother was far away now, too far to hear her screams. Danielle didn’t want to ride the escalators anymore, she could turn around and run back to her mother, screaming at the top of her lungs. But, she couldn’t. She was paralyzed with fear and every step she took was like falling deeper and deeper into quicksand. A lightbulb went off in Danielle’s head. Maybe he’s trying to get past me, she thought. That’s it!
Danielle’s eyes skated around the airport, frantically searching for a safe place she could stow away and allow the man to pass her. She excitedly gasped at the sight of bathrooms on the left-hand side where she saw an elderly Chinese woman enter the bathroom with a young girl who appeared to be her granddaughter. Danielle hastily followed the woman and her granddaughter into the bathroom and patiently waited by the sink for both of them to finish using the restroom. When the grandmother was done using the toilet and washed her hands, Danielle stepped forward.
“Excuse me?” Danielle tried to speak clearly and confidently despite her obvious trembling. “Can you take to my mom, please?”
The Chinese woman raised her eyebrows in confusion. “No… ah… English.”
Danielle’s heart sank and she waited for her granddaughter to exit the stall in hopes she would be able to translate for her. The granddaughter, a year or two older than Danielle, stepped out of the stall in jean shorts and an oversized pink t-shirt and washed her hands. Danielle tapped her shoulder and the granddaughter took a step back, surprised and scared.
“Hello. Do you think your grandma can help me find my mom?”
The girl looked terrified and glanced at her grandmother who shrugged her shoulders. The girl looked back at Danielle and shook her head. Either she was too afraid to speak up or she didn’t know English either. The granddaughter nervously bolted towards her grandmother and latched onto her as if a five-foot, ten-year-old could somehow rob or attack both of them. Neither would help Danielle. The elderly woman held onto her granddaughter and they darted towards the door. The granddaughter took one last look at Danielle and frowned as they disappeared beyond the door. No one else was in the restroom and she knew it wouldn’t be safe for much longer. She would need to make a right outside of the restroom and run towards her mother.
Danielle took a deep breath and sprinted out of the restroom and made an immediate right. She froze in her place when she saw the green-eyed man waiting outside of the women’s restroom, anxiously tapping his foot against one of the pillars near the sliding glass door, his hands stuffed into the front of his pockets. The man was waiting for her. He wasn’t trying to move past her at all. The green-eyed man looked up and she was stunned to find his eyes were no longer deep green. His pupils were dilated and the green had been consumed by pure black. The man appeared enraged. Danielle’s hands trembled and she took in a deep, shaky breath and made a swift right towards her family. She could feel him catch up with her. He was no longer attempting to maintain a few feet apart. It was now or never for both of them. I’m going to be safe, I’m going to be alright, I’ll find my mom, she thought to herself. Everything will be alright.
Suddenly, she felt a large, warm hand on the small of her back. It was moving in circles and it was attempting to very subtly guide her away. His hand was gently pushing her to the left where the sliding glass doors were. Quivering, Danielle craned her neck back and saw the black remained within this man’s eyes. The man did not meet her eyes, he intentionally stared at something and nothing ahead of her. His body was tense and his jaw clenched and his hand on her back grew firmer and tighter, and the exit grew closer. His hand moved upwards to the straps of her dress and he started to gently tug, using them to reign her outside of the airport. The green-eyed man was brazenly trying to snatch her in broad daylight, in the middle of a busy airport.
SCREAM, she thought to herself, SCREAM!
What if he became so afraid he just picked her up and ran away with her? What if she screamed and he put his hand over her mouth and blocked her voice so no one would hear her?
She wanted to scream NO, NO, NO, STOP, yet her body was being lead towards the door, away from the magical escalators, away from her mother. The green-eyed man delicately and cautiously lead her away from her life further down the hall to the very last exit.
Danielle said a quick prayer to God and her mother. Please God, I’m sorry for everything. I promise I’ll be good, I promise I won’t talk back to mom anymore, I promise I’ll clean up my room when she tells me to.
Since her parent’s divorce, things were difficult between Danielle and her mother. They fought and screamed and started World War III every night. Sometimes she would even yell, “You’d be sorry if I died.”
Danielle instantly regretted everything she’d ever said. She knew her mother would be sorry. She knows her mother loved her and things were tough for both of them. But, she didn’t want to disappear. She didn’t want to die. She didn’t want her mother to feel any sort of guilt. Danielle would prefer to sit down and shut up if it meant she could go back home to her mother. She would stop taking every opportunity to win a battle.
Danielle and the green-eyed man moved closer and closer to the exit when she heard her mother’s voice. She looked up to see her mother standing in the same line that still had not budged an inch since she’d left. Knowing this would be her last and final shot, Danielle tore herself away from the man and raced towards her mother, running like an Olympic trainer.
Within seconds, she had made it back to her mother, sweaty and out of breath. In case the man attempted to follow her, she wrapped her arm around her mother’s waist, proving to him, this was her family and this was her mother. She turned around and watched the green-eyed man casually walk towards the exit, acting as if none of that had happened, as if Danielle had dreamt the entire thing. Her mother looked down at her in surprise.
“What happened?” Her mother impatiently demanded. “What did you do?”
Danielle debated whether to tell her anything. She would be punished for leaving the designated spot or her mom might go out there and brutally murder him. Danielle watched the green-eyed man rear his head to the right and make eye contact with her. His eyes had formed back into the deep green color they were before and a slow, smile spread across his face revealing a broken front tooth. He was confident she wouldn’t reveal what happened to a soul. There was nothing to tell. He walked through the sliding glass doors and towards a battered, white pick-up truck, parked and grumbling outside the last exit. The driver smoked a cigarette and wore an impatient, exasperated appearance.
“Well?” Her mother’s voice softened. “Are you okay? What happened?”
Danielle was unable to find the words to describe the event. She watched the two men drive off together from the airport with no luggage, no business suits, and no family. Danielle wondered where they would go next and what they would do. Standing there with her arms wrapped around her mother, she knew if she remained quiet, they would certainly succeed. But she was simply glad to be standing there, alive, next to her mother.