Kage Baker was all too familiar with holding patterns. And she hated them.
Waiting for anything, for any reason, was just not Kage’s forte. Patience, now: she had that, and could bring enormous patience to a task she had initiated herself. She would work her way carefully through anything to accomplish a task: a story, a convoluted chain of research, a delicate piece of calligraphy. I’ve seen her hunched for hours over her home-made light box (an old window pane balanced on a wooden crate with a lamp in it) limning gold paint onto the curves of Celtic uncials with a sable paintbrush whittled down to six tiny hairs. She’d shake out her hand every down and then, and gulp down Coke, that usually had a thin scum of gold on it from where she’d gotten absent-minded about where she dipped the brush.
She could be as patient as a stone. She just couldn’t wait for things.
Kage was a gibberer over Christmas and birthday presents; she didn’t peek, but she shook packages and danced around moaning for the moment of revelation. No one could ever drive fast enough to please her on our way to Disneyland. She counted down days obsessively to longed-for album and book releases. Once she knew a thing was coming – and that it was not in her control – she’d start to pace and whine and coax and bargain, trying to get it to somehow arrive sooner.
Airports were a particular hell for her.
For one thing, she hated flying. Having to wait to board a plane and get in the air was just an extra haul on the rack handle. Once on the plane, she could relax into a sort of resigned sight-seeing: but waiting for a flight was almost more than her nerves could stand. And these days, it’s impossible to fly without waiting: a speedy departure is just not part of the norm anymore. Holding patterns – where one could find oneself circling an unready airport for an hour or more – were terrifying lacunae in space/time for Kage, dizzy non-existance 20,000 feet up in thing air … waiting on the ground was not much better, especially if the delay was post-touchdown and the weather was hot.
For some reason, nearly every trip we ever made had a layover in Phoenix, Arizona’s Sky Harbor. It’s brutally hot in Phoenix. And we never got through that place without a hold: never. Twice, the crew was pulled – once to replace a crew that had vanished from somewhere else, and once when our own crew inexplicably went missing. We never found out where they went, or why. That drove Kage nuts. She at least wanted to know why she was stuck there.
When a plane has to wait on the tarmac at Sky Harbor, they usually turn the A/C off to save power: it’s like a hot box in a bad chain gang movie, except you have far too much company in it. And the waiting areas there have walls of glass, so if you’re on hold inside, it’s like detention in an ant farm under a sun lamp. No one sits within 6 feet of the walls, because of the furnace heat radiating inward. And the place is full of neon cacti, and weirdly painted cayuses, and giant, pointless cowboy hats.
We got trapped in Las Vegas once, overnight – our plane was delayed over and over, an hour at a time, for 24 long weary hours. Kage only survived because a dear friend came and rescued us, letting us sleep in real beds at her house (thank you, Becky!) The next day I gave up and rented a car and drove us home. We were over the California border before sparks stopped flying out of Kage’s hair, and the red glow in her eyes died back.
So, anyway, Kage hated waiting.
I find myself in a definite holding pattern right now. I’m waiting for news from my agent – are newly submitted stories adequate? Is anyone interested? I’m waiting for a sleep study center to contact me, to find out why I stop breathing in my sleep. I’m waiting for the cardiologist to get that answer from the sleep center, to decide how to best regulate my absent-minded heart. I’m waiting for the rain – we are supposed to get some rain here, and God knows we need it. I can see it on the Doppler radar like a fall of gems along the coast, but it’s taking its damned time getting here.
I don’t fizz and spark, like Kage. I just sort of glow with a pale and sullen wrath, like an annoyed mushroom. I wish I were the sort of walking fireworks display she was! It would at least be entertaining.
But in the meanwhile – I wait.