I listen to the hustle and bustle of the airport. Travelers dash from one end of the terminal to the other. Anxious voices explain flight delays; teenagers mope about Grandma’s lack of WiFi; spouses warn each other to keep the peace. Only the young children enjoy the adventure of travel, squealing with delight at the planes. I open my eyes to the congestion of people around the gates. Anticipatory, and occasionally annoyed, expressions pass among the ticket holders. I walk over to one gate for closer inspection.
A little girl with golden curls à la Shirley Temple smiles at me. I smile in return and wave. She giggles and waves back. It always amazes me how children have such keen perception, especially little tots like this one. A young woman hurriedly passes right by my side; she shivers as her wheeled suitcase glides through my foot. The little girl exclaims, “That’s not nice!” Her mother looks down and reminds her to stay close. Their turn to board is coming up. The young woman has a moment of perplexity, then shrugs, chalking up the child’s remark to the general confusion.
As even more people approach the gate, I decide to find a less populated spot. I take a seat next to an elderly gentleman. He adjusts his scarf and buttons up his overcoat. I study his face. He is resolved. His announcement will be made as he carves the turkey. He knows the disbelief and the denial that will follow; his defense is prepared. Across the aisle, a man with salt and pepper hair studies his crossword. He’s trying to focus, but his thoughts return to an empty apartment. He considers his options. He chooses the usual Chinese take-out for his holiday meal. This is not just pure imagination on my part. I recognize their expressions and demeanors. I know the signs of someone who is preparing for an argument and of someone who has no one.
I rise. I wander around the shops and cafés. I inhale the aroma of coffee and wish I could taste it again. Seated at a nearby table, a gray-haired lady kindly addresses a tabby in a carry case, offering it a bit of her tuna fish sandwich, “Here’s a treat for you.” I kneel and reach out to pet the ball of fur, but I receive a hiss of defiance. “No need to be testy,” admonishes the lady. She looks up and, despite her glasses, squints. For a moment I think she can see me. No, she’s looking through me, checking the time on the TV screen that hangs in the middle of the terminal. A flurry of announcements adds to the chaos. I give a small laugh at the surprised gasps of those whose names are called for final boarding. I turn away.
I head toward the large glass windows and peer out at the sky. It’s a clear, crisp day. I wonder how far the sky’s blue stretches until it melts into the darkness of space. I cannot imagine how far space extends until the eternal light bursts forth. I wake from my reverie at the sound of a baby’s hungry cry. I notice none are looking out. Even the children have grown tired of the airport game. They seek new distractions.
Planes continue to land and take off at regimented intervals. On board, passengers tap fingers and feet to mark the time until they arrive at their destinations. The passage of time no longer concerns me. I quietly await my final conveyance