Photo Courtesy of Sleepy Hollow Books
Airports can be interesting places. Surely not because of the security checks and the long lines and the little plastic baggies we stuff full of tiny bottles of shampoo and toothpaste tubes, but because everyone is in transit.
Airports are hubs in more ways than one. When you come down to it, all of us, including the universe, are moving somewhere, and airports are centers of movement.
Each plane carries a complement of people, folk who travel for pleasure or for business or because some crisis requires their presence. If I sit long enough at an airport (and given the pattern of delays favored by most airlines, this is a given), real people whose names I will never know stream past.
Today a woman in a nearby coffee shop is tearing a croissant into small pieces while scanning the crowd. Her cell phone lies beside her coffee cup and every now and again she stops decimating her croissant to text somebody. Her eyes are anxious, a little afraid. I wonder why.
A man with two children hurries past chattering directions. Don’t run, hold your brother’s hand, tie your shoe laces before you trip… the children ignore him. Their disdain is palpable, and even at this distance I can see the eye-rolls.
Behind this little group comes a pale young man bellowing into his cell phone and then a couple who walk so closely together that their shoulders constantly bump. Nothing is said between them, but he looks down at her and she up at him in complete understanding. Then, they, too are lost in the crowd, and in their wake trail a group of college students texting furiously as they saunter along.
Sitting in an airport is almost like visiting Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. Tableaux arrange themselves then break away into new formations, snatches of conversation are tossed about. Sometimes, these snippets are fascinating.
“…Oh, my lord—a goat!”
“No way your aunt can stay with us. Remember what she did to my guitar last time?”
I can only guess at these stories which have neither beginning nor end. The woman with the croissant, for instance—what is her story, I wonder. Then… a man in a crumpled seersucker suit comes hurrying up the corridor. He waves at the croissant woman and shouts something. Her face crumples, then smoothes into such happiness that she is suddenly radiant. Coffee cup and crumbs are pushed aside as they embrace.
“Sorry I’m late…”
“I was so worried…”
They speak at once and then stop and laugh and look long at each other. I watch as he picks up her bags and they move off, and I hope that their story will be a happy one.
Fragments of stories are what I find in an airport… but perhaps it is so everywhere. In our busy lives we meet, we greet, and we often converse with—how many? We do this and move on without really understanding that we are fellow voyagers on a world that travels around the same sun.
In warm airport
Met stranger’s eye, shared smiles…
But we did not speak.