Sunday, November 06, 2005

Along the Way

Fellowship of the air. Never seen these new friends before; never will again. Lynn from Omaha with her short brown hair cut for business, but with style. Rod, a tall and well-proportioned man, a transplanted Michiganer who met his fiancé on a flight to Dubai. “One that was just like this one,” he says.

I can imagine. He overflows his seat in enforced intimacy, plants his feet on the crowding bulkhead wall to stretch his legs, talks of dirt bikes and fishing.

Where to put the coffee cup? How to juggle a book, blow up an inflatable pillow, toe off a shoe with elbow pinned to skin, metal chair arms rubbing holes in elbows. Minimal comfort requires a group effort.

Tiny fingers play spider, creep overhead, tangle in hair. “Corinda,” her mother says.

Nevermind. We play finger hide and seek across the seat back, the child and I, her dark eyes from Mumbai … old Bombay … wide with mischief

The night is brief, gone in the spasm of cramped legs and feigned sleep. Every watch eats time, jumps forward, hands whirling ahead. Twelve, One, Two, Three and the DC-10’s nose unearths the sun, winkles it off the seabed, sends it up over waterlogged land.

Amsterdam ahead.

Shippol. Seabed waters shed and channeled. Men with light blue eyes, startling in their clarity and fixity. They have wrested a land from the sea.

And, the women, tall and fair, speaking accented English,

“My flight’s not on the board,” I say to one. I’m not complaining but asking a question:
“What do I do now?”

She checks my boarding pass. F-7. “Here you are,” she says, trust in the system firm in her voice. People flow around us, mostly attached to wheeled boxes built to hold computers and overnight needs.

F-7 is miles away. What if I walk it only to find nothing there? “It is clear,” she reads my expression. “F-7.”

Who in America, where change is the only certainty, would trust a boarding pass issued a day earlier?

She does.
She was right.

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