The Empty Suitcase: at an airport

February 27, 2008

By Naoko Fujimoto 

On the way back to America with two extremely heavy suitcases, a backpack, paper bag, and a certain-sized plastic bag for toiletries, I took an eleven hour plane ride from Japan.  At Customs, I carried luggage more than my weight—instant miso soups, my mother’s handmade beans, favorite chocolate sweets, green tea, new clothes, and tons of Japanese novels—I seemed to live in a jungle using a microwave and reading books. 

At the entrance of America, I took off my jacket, shoes, belt, hat, and other accessories.  I felt a wanting for music and a pole but I had never shown the feeling on my face.  A security officer took my toothpaste from my plastic bag.  I explained to her that it was Japanese toothpaste, and she said, “I know what it is.”  My nearly empty toothpaste completed its mission by diving into the trashcan for the sake of the world peace. 

I wished that the officer took my hand-cream instead.  The toothpaste was nearly empty but I could have used it for more than 5 days.  My budget for new toothpaste was planned in late January.  But, it was not only about my budget.  The toothpaste was perfect—fluoride, some blue beads, and fresh mint flavor—it was for my mouth’s happiness; perhaps, halitosis.  I must have the toothpaste.  When I arrived at the airport in South Bend, I might have had greeting kisses on the cheek or a romantic moment between my non-brushed teeth and the final destination. 

At the Detroit International Airport, there is a long, magical tunnel between the main building of the international flights and domestic flights.  The tunnel is decorated with colorful fluorescent lights.  The background music is like that of a romantic comedy movie—a young woman, who has her first business trip, coincidentally bumps into a young entrepreneur.  Of course, her documents fly out her briefcase and his coffee is spilled on her shirt.  In their eyes, passion sparks but she has to leave for her connecting flight.  He keeps her lost article, a nice fountain pen, and walks in a different direction of hers.  Somehow a manager at the airport helps them to meet again—this kind of background music is always in the tunnel.  I walk through the tunnel every winter break; however, I had not bumped into a young entrepreneur, but my backpack wheels always get stuck on the escalator in the tunnel. 

In this trip, a young man was in hot pursuit after me through the tunnel before I brushed my teeth.  When I walked on the electrical esplanade, he screamed, “Hey, you! Wait, young lady!”  I guessed that the young lady was supposed to mean myself but I usually try not to talk to strangers who scream.  In addition, I did not want to talk anyone until I got my new toothpaste.  But he kept running toward me.  I felt insecure and frightened. 

If I had lost my confidence, I might have been dangerously in trouble, so I quickly walked through the tunnel in the bright lights.  There were a few people in the tunnel.  They just looked forward to their destinations, so they did not care about others.  My heart beat quickened and I sweated.  When I thought that the security booth was close, the guy grabbed my shoulder. I was caught. 

He did not ask for my phone number or name, but we walked together to the gate for South Bend, and his gate was close by.  “Don’t lose your belt,” said the guy when we waved each other farewell.  After the security point stripped my belongings, I probably did not wear my belt properly.  I lost the belt at some point in the tunnel, and the guy was chasing me with the perfect romantic comedy music and the belt. 

I did not know if there was a manager who would be a cupid between the guy and me.  If I had my toothpaste, I would have had more confidence to ask for his name.  Perhaps, my confiscated toothpaste was the cupid, but it had a mission for saving world peace, not for my romance.  My first purchase in America was dentist recommended toothpaste, I would have had more confidence to ask for his name.  Perhaps, my confiscated toothpaste was the cupid, but it had a mission for saving world peace, not for my romance.  My first purchase in America was dentist recommended toothpaste.   

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One Response to “The Empty Suitcase: at an airport”


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