New Mexico: Part 2 (5 of 52)
The second time I ventured to New Mexico was in 2004. I had gotten one of my best friends bewitched by Natalie Goldberg’s writing and we both had a need for adventure, and planned to head to Taos.
I closed my eyes and didn’t look at my bank account and booked us a flight to Albuquerque, where we read that there were airport shuttles to Taos, which was good because we weren’t yet 25 and couldn’t rent a car.
We were idiots in the way that only 23 year olds can be idiots. Our flight got in at 9pm and the final shuttle each day left at 5pm and they did not leave until 9am the next day.
We did not look into whether or not there were ways around being allowed to rent a car.
We did not weigh the benefits of paying $50 for a cheap motel near the airport to sleep in.
We did decide to sleep in the airport.
We did decide to bring pot brownies on the plane. We did decide to eat the pot brownies once we got to the Albaquerque airport.
We did try to walk across the highway to the Waffle House.
A cab driver pulled over and asked us what we were doing. We told him we were just trying to get to the Waffle House. We could see it from the sidewalk outside the airport. It couldn’t be that hard to get there. He took a long look at us and shook his head. He told us to get in the car. He wouldn’t charge us. But we shouldn’t walk across the freeway it was dangerous. My life has been filled with strange angels.
We thought the Waffle House was hilarious. It’s a regional chain that hasn’t hit in the Pacific Northwest, so we thought it was the only one. There was a juke box with waffle-themed songs. There were bright fluorescent lights and plastic vinyl booths. As we settled into the booth, the vinyl squished and squeaked beneath our thighs. The brownies were beginning to hit and the bright lights got brighter. The vinyl got squeakier. And the menu got funnier.
We kept it together enough to order some waffles. I don’t remember how we got back to the airport, which we discovered was actually, in fact, called the Albaquerque Sunport, but I have a suspicion we walked. We were idiots.
When we had decided to sleep in the airport, we were used to large international airports like SeaTac or LAX. We did not imagine that the Albaquerque Sunport would be partly open air and nearly closed down by 10:30pm. We moved sleepily through the airport and put quarters in the luggage cart machine to get a couple of carts for our bags. The few people we did see looked at us strangely. A man with a machine cleaning the floors tilted his head oddly at us as we paid for sodas from a machine. A second airport custodian looked at us sideways as we settled between two sets of seats on the cold tile floor. A woman in an 80’s looking business suit who sat nearby looked up from the game she was playing on her laptop, the blue glow of the screen lighting her face from below. She quickly dismissed us and looked back down.
Was this okay? Were we going to be arrested for loitering? Sleeping in airports was a thing people did, right?
The pot was hitting me in the brain from all directions. I imagined myself calling my parents from a New Mexico jail cell. Guilt leaked from my every pore as I settled down on the tile and tried to sleep. I pulled my red hoodie around my face tight and laid with my eyes open. The night went quickly and slowly, in bursts and achingly long moments. I slept fitfully, the cold of the tile seeping up through my jeans and into my bones.
Eventually, it was 7am. The woman with the laptop was gone. We gathered up our stuff and grabbed some coffee from an airport vendor who was just opening up. We did not venture back towards the waffle house. We were at the shuttle stop an hour early, and by this time, back in our usual chatty giggly state.
The ride was long, longer than we had anticipated, and we stopped multiple times on the way to Taos. By the time we got to our hostel, it was early afternoon and the sun was warm on our faces.