Airports are liminal spaces at the best of times, by design; they’re very literally places where you’re meant to pass through almost frictionlessly — with the obvious exceptions of security and check-ins, of course. Having recently traveled back from the UK in a trip that included an extended, unintentional layover of nearly seven hours, I can report that John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City might be the most liminal of all spaces.
By somewhere around the end of the second hour in the airport, I was lying on the floor, my head propped up on one of my carry-on, staring at the stenciled graphics on the ceiling above me. We were only meant to have three hours or so there before boarding the next (and final) flight on our journey home, but the fates had decided otherwise. Within minutes of checking bags and being told, “Your flight is on time, get through security and head for Gate 9,” the board displayed an update: the flight was suddenly delayed 90 minutes. That wouldn’t be the last update throughout the evening.
At some point — hour three, perhaps? Hour four? — it just felt as if I’d always been there. By that point, even the concept of “there” felt like a malleable one: I went into a store for a snack and saw the “I[HEART]NY” logo everywhere and had a brief instant of, Weird. Why would they do that? before remembering, that’s right: I’m actually in New York at the moment, kind of. The idea of any place existing that wasn’t JFK just felt… almost impossible.
Eventually, the plane left, and so did we. But if you told me that it was all a fantasy, and that I really was still there, lying on the floor and wondering if I’d ever leave, I might actually believe you.