It's an understatement to say that Star Wars is a big deal in my life.
I retreat to The Empire Strikes Back when I need inspiration for my own Sci-Fi writing. I listen to #JohnWilliam's score to make long drives enjoyable. Han Solo was one of my first heroes, the snarky bastard. But if I had to pick between Star Wars and fire extinguishers, I'd pick the fire extinguishers. Every single time.
I never thought it would come to that.
Gate C9 at the Sky Harbor International Airport was on fire. Sunlight burned the skin of a hundred people waiting for their flight, including me. The massive glass windows—I'm pretty sure they counted as walls—killed any chance of shade. With sweat snaking down my back, the crowd growing tighter as boarding time approached, and the noise at constant level of jet engine takeoff, I was ready to die. We were all ready to die.
Apparently, the suffering wasn't enough. The gate attendant threw a keg of gasoline on the burn pile. "Flight 2231 to Tulsa has been delayed until 3:50pm."
The man next to me pulled off his suit jacket, loosened his tie, and said, "F**k, I need a fire extinguisher over here."
You'd better bring a fire extinguisher, too, because messy traveling adventures and missed Star Wars showings are about mix.
It Started With A Broken Train
Rewind a few days.
For a much needed holiday, I traveled to Albuquerque to see my best friends, and even though Albuquerque might not seem like much, we had a lot planned for the week. Thursday morning found us on the Railrunner Express to Santa Fe. After too many books and a toxic level of coffee, we boarded the train to ride back. All was well. We sat on the upper level of the car at a little table, enjoying the smooth trip. Then, in the deepest void of New Mexico, our train slowed and jerked to a stop. The conductor's voice crackled over the speakers. "We're having some mechanical difficulties on the track ahead. Please wait for an update."
Thursday was also the night Rogue One dropped.
I sat on a broken train, looking out the windows at absolute blackness, searching for cell service that simply didn't exist, completely detached from the world outside. Even though we hadn't planned to see Rogue One on Thursday, my lifeline to the excitement of everyone else was severed. #StarWars is a big deal in my life. A really big deal.
I felt dead inside.
The train delay lasted about thirty pitch-black minutes, but the internal death only lasted as long as I wanted. Eventually, I said, "Screw cell service. Screw Star Wars excitement." Being stuck on a train with my best friends was more fun than drinking toxic levels of coffee and religiously updating the Rogue One hashtag. We made fun of the conductor's sassy narrative—"I'm just waiting on a call from the other train, so hang in there, I guess . . ."—and made school plans for the future.
The black minutes didn't hurt so much with Saturday, the official Rogue One watching day, on the horizon.
Cue the Saturday Snowstorm
Saturday morning, the sky unleashed icy hell.
Typical, New Mexico. How damn typical of you.
Snowflakes swirled in the air, sleet piled up in the darkest corners of the wilderness, and the wind howled the Imperial March in a mournful key—at least I thought it did. Yes, I saw the snow. No, it didn't matter. My mind played out, "Rogue One Rogue One Rogue One Rogue One," like a broken record.
The roads were impassable, keeping us all locked inside. I lifted the needle off my broken record mind (RogueOneRogueOneRo—) and accepted the blackness of the freakish weather. Once again, I felt dead inside, but only for a while. Like our adventure on the train, we threw out our unrealistically perfect plans. And like any group of self-respecting young adults, we made cinnamon rolls and played poker.
The cinnamon rolls looked like Leia's hair. I swear, they did.
Poker was a good way to spend the housebound hours, but that didn't change the fact that one of the many lights in my Star Wars heart had been turned off. Everyone else had seen the biggest movie of the year, but I was sitting still, waiting for the snow to melt, waiting for my time to come.
No Ashes, Just Fire
Phoenix was a blast. And by blast, I mean I burned alive. The last flight to Tulsa was delayed five times—five—and when I finally got on the plane, the oversold seats filled until there was only one chair left. My chair. Right next to the growling engine.
And all God's children said, "Welcome to holiday travel, Sam."
Waiting for departure, I watched the Snapchat stories of all my friends who were at the theater watching—I bet you can't guess this—Rogue One. Not even the excitement of takeoff pulled me out of my grumpy and vaguely terrified state of mind. Was I pissed off I still hadn't seen the movie? Of course not. #RogueOne wasn't the biggest thing on my mind. In fact, after laughing on a broken train and playing poker with some of the most money-hungry friends on earth, I didn't feel as though I'd missed much.
Mostly, I was restless.
(RogueOneRogueOne Rogue One R o g u e O n e r o g u e o n —)
Flying helped. When we reached 10,000 feet, the view took my hand and dragged me out of my mood. My traveling delays sucked just as much as the truck turned upside down in a ditch far below. They sucked as much as the people in Phoenix driving clogged streets to work the jobs to which they've given their lives. They sucked as much as the sun going down on a day stained with unfinished projects and goals.
But we were all only trying to do one thing. Keep going.
Rogue One, Finally
Some people have knee-jerk reactions to movies. I have knee-jerk reactions backward. On first viewing, I'm pretty chill. I like even the shabbiest of stories, but as time goes on and my mind has the chance to spin through every plot point, character arc, and musical motif, my knee rises in indecision until I stomp my foot down with a solid opinion. Rogue One was different. When I finally saw Rogue One, I knew exactly what to think, and it was the list of unfortunate events I'd collected that kept me from hating the movie.
How did messy travel keep me from hating Rogue One?
I'm going to spoil the heck out of the most anticipated movie of the year, so watch out.
Rogue One isn't perfect. It's got plot problems and underdeveloped characters and a pace that wobbles like it had too many drinks at Mos Eisley Cantina. The visuals are spectacular, of course, but they often overshadow the rest of the movie. These things are typically deal-breakers for me, especially when I've let my excitement for a movie run wild. But Rogue One isn't just a movie with flaws. It's a movie with something dreadfully real at its core.
Every single main character in Rogue One meets a horrible end on the beaches of Scarif. Perhaps it was a predictable resolution, but it doesn't stop at death. Rogue One is fascinated with the blackness, the discomfort, and the unfortunate ends that always come with moving forward. Jyn Erso doesn't even want to fight in the war, but that's where she finds herself. She saves the Rebellion.
I didn't want to be stuck in an airport that felt like the fifth circle of hell, but that's where I found myself.
In the end, I wasn't the one to take a Death Star blast to the chest, but I sure as hell felt the discomfort of not being able to take control of anything around me. It hurt, it erased plans, it brought good surprises, and somehow, it moved every little piece of the world forward.
I loved Rogue One.
Jyn Erso, the people in Phoenix traffic, and my own beaten down self make a good team. We take our delays on the dark side. We keep moving. We head home.