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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

Midwest Accents & Italian Beef

I’m on my way to Chicago and am on the worst seat in the plane. It’s directly behind first class & it’s as if I’m seated in the aisle with no seat in front of my to tuck my backpack. The seat next time mine is occupied by an entitled, older white man. If you’ve been alive as a woman for almost 50 years, you can spot them. He stretches his bare feet, which look as if they’ve never seen toenail clippers, into the seat in front of him. I’m not anti feet but his make me want to barf on them. Seat 1 in first class is unoccupied and I consider begging the flight attendant to let me move - that I’ll pay for it to escape the sighing, wriggling man with the naked feet next to me. Instead, I tell myself Chicago isn’t a long flight and write here - bitching about this guy. I’ve decided people like him are the reason punches are thrown on planes. Or perhaps I’m the reason - sneaking a pic of his gd feet.

My last flight was from Colorado to Richmond. A woman and her young daughter sat next to me. The woman had nothing with her. No purse. No backpack or bag. Just a purple folder. She asks me if I speak Spanish and I don’t. I catch a glance at the contents of the folder and see there is something about immigration court. That flight was due to land in Richmond at 11 PM. I typed into Google translate and say I don’t speak Spanish but I ask if she needs help. She slowly reads the message and says no, thanking me. I hustle off the plane in Richmond, eager to get home as it’s past my bedtime. I spot a group of people waiting to welcome a passenger. One person in the group appears to be filming and another is holding a large stuffed animal. I hope they are here for my seatmates.

A quick glance back confirms the group is here for my seatmates.  The little girl is running up to the group and runs into the arms of one of the women.

People complain about immigrants. They say it’s illegal immigrants they have a problem with but I’m pretty sure they mean all immigrants with brown skin. I’d like to point out that those seatmates kept their shoes & socks on. Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Breathe free - something I wasn’t doing with Mr. Barefoot next to me.

The plan begins to descend into Chicago. I look past Mr. Barefoot and out the window at the flattened landscape. Is this really where I’m from? I grew up here? It’s disorienting & seemingly improbable due to the swift passage of time. Just like that, 32 years have passed since I left “home”. In that time, I’ve called many other places home.

This week, I’ve been following my prom date’s adventures with his family. Together, they have biked a distance of 100 miles. It looks fun and also makes me imagine my butt going numb on a bike seat. But what’s really awe inspiring is that my prom date is 50 - I’m soon to follow. Sometimes, I think back to spending time with my friends growing up and am stunned to realize I’m older than their parents were when they fed me or drive me places. Blink.

Illinois has become an old friend - changed and yet familiar. Shared experiences link us where we might not otherwise connect any more.

It’s been almost a year since I was in Illinois and I cannot recall the last time I flew here. But here I am - amongst Midwest accents and Italian beef.

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