Dumb and deadly, that's me
Late, yet again, arriving at the airport. Rio this time. Big hold-all slung over my shoulder and my portable CD player in the other hand. I'm trying to get my girlfriend to hurry it all along, walking faster and telling her 'we need to get a move on'. Last check-in time has already been and gone, we're going to have to beg them on this one.
Of course, the airport's busy, I groan loudly as I see the crowd we're going to have to push through just to get to the desk. I set off full pace, not running, just walking as fast as I can with the weight on me. Herself will have to catch up.
I zip as neatly as is possible in and out of the crowd, getting to a bit of a clear spot. I shoot forward and take some easy ground. "Be there in a second" I think
What the hell? Something just hit off my stereo. I pull my arm up and angle the box round to the front of me to check it out. Nothing doing there. I look around. No sign of anyone nearby, no bits of airport other than the flat marble-esque floor.... And a boy, maybe four or five, short blue trousers and a white t-shirt, lying fetus-like on the ground, his hands up to his head, clutching. I can't have, I didn't, the wee lad would be screaming his head off if that had..
And the whole crowd in the immediate vicinity turned quiet, as the kid let out scream after scream after scream. All eyes went to the floor and then round to the cause of the pain. I looked round at the faces and back down at the kid. I was frozen, my heart racing. I looked round again. My girlfriend standing there, staring, caught my eye. She shook her head and turned away. I was on my own here.
The kids screams aren't getting any quieter. Louder, if anything. I still don't move, I want to approach, to help, but I've no idea what to do. For some reason I'm frightened by this child. I look again at the crowd and catch one womans cold look as she moves forward toward the youngster. Taking the child in her arms she picks him up and glares at me over his shoulder. She slowly turns her back, still keeping her eyes set on me in a stare that makes everything feel so much worse, as I mumble, weakly, 'Sorry'. As she turns fully around she snaps her head back toward the child whose legs and arms are now clinging round her.
I stand there. People either still staring at me or offering comfort to the woman and child. I can feel the hatred. I still can't even move. I must have stood there a minute or more, occassionally juddering, my body trying to move toward them. To say something, to do something, to make it better.
It was only when my girlfriend came over that my muscles finally came under my control again. "Come on, we'll miss the damn flight".
It's over 9 hours back to my place from Rio. And that was the last she said to me the rest of the journey.