Barely alive, I clung close to the front desk after all the legitimate passengers had boarded. Then I heard the woman behind the counter say what could have been my name, but not loud enough to be an announcement. I lurched toward her and said in a broken voice, "Did you say Aaron Mingus?!"
She looked at me for an uncomfortably long time, studying my tear-filled eyes and quivering hand, clutching a ticket. "Yes," she said. "Get on." Suddenly, I was in a dream, being swept through a dark tunnel into a transcendent, white light, then through a crowded hall of people...to the very back of the plain. Last row, middle aisle, middle seat. The last seat on the plain. To me, the last seat in the world. I wouldn't be seeing out the windows on my way to the Dublin. I wouldn't be seeing anything. Luckily, I didn't care. I had made it.
I sat down next to an elderly, Irish woman, who glanced at me with some concern. She asked where I was going, and I couldn't remember, "It's a college...in Dublin..."
"You've heard of it?" I asked, slowly sinking into oblivion.
"Well, of course!" My question was stupid. Trinity is one of the most well known colleges in Ireland. I must have seemed like an ignorant and naive child or a complete idiot. Again, this didn't matter to me, because moments later I was dead asleep, drifting dreamlessly through the sky.
I hate airports, but I love flying. I love to glide over the planet, either staring down at the world in miniature, watching the clouds and imagining them as an ever-shifting mountain range, or just sleeping in my cramped, coach seat, too tired and happy to care that it should be uncomfortable. Then there is the destination. At the end of a flight, there is a new land to explore, new people to talk to, and new foods to eat. Flying is merely the beautiful beginning of an adventure.
Of course, I use the word "new" in a relative sense. There is nothing literally "new" about Ireland. I was definitely not the first person to set foot there, as the knowledgeable, old woman next to me could attest. No matter how far we go off the beaten path, we are likely to never see or do anything first, and truly experience something new to humanity as a whole. This leaves us always walking in the footsteps of others.
That is probably why people who actually went someplace first are held in such high regard. To be the first person to step foot somewhere no else has been... it's amazing. Most of us can only dream of doing something so strangely mundane yet incredible at the same time. That is why we revere men like Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, Roald Amundsen, the Wright Brothers, or Yuri Gagarin, but there is a special admiration we may feel for Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon.
You spend your whole life with the moon. No matter what you do or where you are, it hangs above, staring down from the night's sky. On particularly bad nights, you can sit outside with a cigarette and watch it slowly swing through the air, resting easier knowing there is some consistency and security in life. The moon will be there. On good nights with friends, you can watch it and dream together of all the places you will go and things you will do.
The moon is always close and yet faraway. Almost intangibly far. No matter where you go, the moon is always be there, but you can't be there. You can't touch it or feel its dirt beneath your toes. It almost taunts you with its constancy. That is the bitter romance with the moon for most of us. It is, in this man's mind, the physical embodiment of all our goals and all our dreams, especially the ones that we will never achieve. The loves we will never have and the places we will never reach.
But somebody did. Somebody went there and set foot on that impossible place, achieved that impossible goal. Perhaps this makes our failed dreams all the more bitter...or maybe it makes them all the more possible. If a man can walk on the moon, what can't be done? Maybe our efforts are not so futile? And at very least, it is worth trying.
It is more than likely none of us will be the first to go somewhere or do something, yes. But that does not mean we should not try. That does not mean we should not dream. All the troubles and trials, all the sleepless nights in that goddamned airport, are well worth the moment we finally fly. And one better, they are worth that moment we actually set foot someplace for our first time.