I closed the e-book I'd been reading, and directed my focus to the window. My mind was elsewhere, reeling with the memories, and had been all morning. A number rolled by outside as we accelerated along the runway.
I'd arrived in Seattle by rail, 4 days prior. I'd been working from the train, but took a break to get myself and my stuff to the flat I'd be sharing before continuing. After a bit more work, I met a friend for dinner before getting some flowers and heading to the airport.
Distracted by the window, I watched another number flash past outside.
The first of my companions arrived. The flowers weren't for her, but she half-suspected I'd surprise her at the airport. We hoofed it to the light rail and got a small bite one stop over before returning to the airport to wait. Our time was a mix of light chatter, heavier conversation, and flirting.
We arrived back at the airport just as our other companion landed. Zie was quite late, but it was a small wonder zie made it at all. Hir connecting flight had been cancelled that morning, and it was only by the other two of us nudging hard and coughing up some miles that zie got there at all. When zie entered the concourse, we popped out to surprise hir, with the flowers, but also simply by being there. Shortly, we'd summoned a ride and were heading back to the flat. Before sleeping, we collapsed into a pile of cuddles. The day had been stressful, but moreover we'd been apart a while, and that period had been rife with its own stresses.
After too little sleep, we arrived for the first day of the conference. Unlike most other tech conferences I'd been to, this one was much more about people than the technology itself. The focus was divided between taking care of the people building the technology, and ensuring those affected by it were also carefully considered by those doing the building. The first day covered a range from bringing rehabilitation back to prisons, to bringing diversity and inclusivity to a workplace with outward-facing functions, to expanding how we empathize. An ice cream social followed dinner, with the sprouts of a new relationship showing for one of us as the other two looked on, before the day ended as the previous one did: a moment of shared emotional intimacy and vulnerability amongst the three of us, before we collapsed to sleep.
The second day was no less deep than the first, as we heard about human factors in complex systems, ethical concerns in the the world where all our devices are connected, and so many aspects of bringing empathy into your work.
Dinner followed, then hanging at a coffeeshop. At the conclusion of the evening, we parted company. Upon returning again to our flat, we first unwound together before collectively collapsing in a tired, snuggly heap on the bed. In many ways it felt for me not just like coming home, but coming home to people who loved me. It was a luxury 2016 had not been especially forthcoming with.
The numbers were flicking past rather quickly now.
Unlike the previous days, Sunday morning would be unrushed. We awoke without an alarm, in that same heap. A trip south toward the center of the city followed, with a lovely bookstore, an elegant brunch, a leisurely stroll, a ferry ride, and dinner with a longtime friend of one of my companions, as all the while in the background the budding relationship that had started the weekend began to bloom around us.
The evening ended again with we three together, with the comedown from a fantastic conference washing across us amongst a sea of other emotions. In a continually changing series of awkward poses on the floor, we took turns listening and holding each other up -- literally and figuratively -- before collapsing on the bed for one final night.
Outside my window, we took to the air, finally, lifting slowly away from the ground.
Cleaning up the flat was quick work, and we shortly headed to the airport. Our flights were spaced such that we'd see off one person, then I'd go, then the last of us would board hir delayed plane last. There was plenty of time for emotional goodbyes at each step, though we expected to see each other again in weeks instead of months. Still, each of us climbed aboard our planes carrying our own emotional weight. I wondered if I'd make it off the ground before I cried. Thanks to the 90 minute delay, I didn't.
The numbers, the runway, the land, peeled slowly away below me, count ended short. Once again I had no home. Most of the width of the continent stood between me and my next itinerant stop.