Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gate C

A story - Sometimes patience pays off, and sometimes it doesn't.

When I got there, the Gate C exit area was deserted. Good. It would be easier to detect the beginning of the next wave of arrivals and start the process of judging where they’d come from.  A small group appeared from the gate area and proceeded through the large exit door. I examined them closely, looking for clues to their place of origin, but they could have come from anywhere, wearing or carrying jackets and coats appropriate for the Seattle winter, and having nondescript skin tones, with no evidence of recent sun exposure. The first group was followed by a succession of others just like them.

My attention began wandering, and without its discipline, my thoughts tumbled recklessly: “She’s almost here! I’ve missed her so much. She’s living her destiny that I somehow always expected. My intuition knew she’d live on a far away continent, and soon I’m going to see her again after more than a year.”

Teary eyes would not do for a greeting. I forced my attention back to watching the exit.

A man standing nearby shook his head and walked over to the escalator leading down to Baggage Claim. I fished out my cell phone and checked the time. It was a long walk from the gate to the exit, and barely 10 minutes had passed since the plane’s arrival. Even so, I felt compelled to ask the guard standing nearby if there was another way out from Gate C. No, he said. No other way.

I returned to my station and looked around the terminal, composing mental pictures of it to keep my mind occupied until the next wave of arrivals. A man and a woman walked over from the ticketing area and stood a few feet to my right. 

I lifted my left foot a couple of inches from the floor and rotated it, then shifted to my right foot and did the same.

Another group began trickling through the exit. A bright floral-print shirt caught my attention. Next came a face with a leathery tan followed by a Hawaiian shirt, and finally the clincher, a silver jacket and matching silver flip-flops. The plane from LA.

My heart beat faster, and I took a deep breath to slow it back down. Eyes started to water again, so I focused intently on faces. Time passed. A tall man towered over the crowd. Was that an Acubra on his head? No, it wasn't her partner, Jim. Back to faces. Their numbers dwindled. How curious. Under the weight of a sinking heart, my feet stopped shifting and felt rooted to the floor.

The couple to my right put their heads together in discussion. “What plane are you waiting for?” I asked.

“The plane from LA,” the woman replied. “I’m going down to baggage and see if we missed them.” She disappeared down the elevator. After a few minutes she was back. “They’re all down in baggage.”

Forgetting to thank her or even look back, I dashed to the escalator.

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