i glanced back over the curve of the upward sloping walkway and finally spotted "30". that's where i needed to be so i tiptoed back over the plywood and on to the crowded, dim ground floor.
the terminal smelled of lumber and had the feel of a lodge.
up a flight of stairs i went and finally found myself before the car rental counter.
"be.th rai.ney? i have a reservation for a rental car?" i questioned as the agent began flipping through pieces of paper the size of airline boarding passes.
"did i do it right? this is the first time i've ever rented a car."
not only that, it was the first time i had ever traveled alone. tensions from my everyday life had sent me searching for an outlet i could call my own.
"here it is!" she said as she pulled out the ticket with my name printed across the top in black letters. "they no longer require you to check in on certain days."
"really? i remember always hearing how you had to check in on a monday or a tuesday or a wednesday."
"not anymore. they did away with all of that."
she handed me the key. it was inside a modestly sized cylindrical silver container with a screw on lid attached to a key ring. i took it in my hand.
as my mind began to process the next step necessary to continue my trip, i realized i couldn't remember where i had decided to go. how could i not remember my own destination. i began to panic a little until i remembered: Edmond, OK. that's where i had decided to go.
but why on earth would i choose Edmond, OK? there had to be a reason. i wouldn't just choose a place like Edmond for its cultural value.
i began an attempt to soothe rumpled travel plans by thinking of what must surely be available in Edmond, or any small town, for a person to kill time doing.
"follow me and i can take you out back to see the salmon." the travel agent said to me and one other customer.
that's it! i was going to Edmond to see the salmon run.
i began walking and mentally rifling through my suitcase. what had i been thinking? i barely had any attire appropriate for spending a week in nature.
we turned left and followed the agent up a short, narrow flight of wooden stairs and out onto a deck. as we rounded the corner, we saw a small crowd. the deck was expansive and looked out on a virgin landscape with mountains in the background and a large pool of dark, crystal clear water alive with the spatterings of jumping fish. animals and people alike were engaged in a hushed communion.
i breathed in the cool, crisp air and stepped up to the railing to look in. i was surprised that salmon were so small. i tried to imagine them on a dinner plate and the comparison just didn't match up. perhaps they were still adolescents. there were a handful of large flounder-shaped fish and i tried to make out if they weren't feeding on the salmon bonanza.
we walked back to the eastern side of the deck with the agent where no one else was bothering to see what was over there. a small canyon stretched away from the deck with a shallow stream and muddy beaches.
"it's so strange to see a zebra, a giraffe, an elephant, a hippo, ... all in the same place like that. why are they all napping?" their identical positions on the beach seemed planned and just as i was posing the question, all the animals simultaneously raised their heads from the soft, cool, muddy sand and looked back at us.
the zebra immediately sprung over the railing and came over to me. he was as excited as a dog with a stranger, but many times the size. i tried to keep him under control by scratching his head while i climbed on a nearby picnic table. he was unrelenting.
"i don't know what i'm going to do if that camel jumps up here. i mean giraffe." i said as the single-humped cognizant camel jumped over the railing.