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"You don't mind if I take this seat, do you?"

"No," he says.

"Oh, good." She smiles, and she is blonde, and she is older. Her manner reeks of class; his hunched demeanor tells of indifference.

It's only a sports bar at ten and thirteen minutes into the night.

"I'll have a glass of red." Her order screams of class as well. His beer is looking mighty dull at this point. She is alone--no man. "God, it's so warm out there isn't it?"

"A little bit."

She thanks the bartender for bringing the wine. She glances at the television he stares at. The game's over, and only highlights are played. Night at a bar in the airport. Her arms have lines and freckles. The face is comfortably worn.

"So where are you headed?" he asks.

She turns back to him, smiles again. Thick lipstick. Her heels are red; her dress is death.

He hears D.C., and purses his lips as he nods his head. "Good place, I hear."

"Yea," she says. "It's nice. It is somewhat difficult to get around." Only in a bar, and only at an airport.

"How so?"

"Well, people drive like maniacs."

"Don't go to L.A.," he says. Stay away.

"Why?"

"Driving," he says, "is not easy to manage. Strange that it's required of every human being within the county limits."

Uneasy smile. Too many beers already on his tab. "Come now. Are you perhaps being melodramatic?"

No.

"Well, I have been there. It's not that the driving is bad, it's just odd. Likewise, D.C. is very odd."

"What's in D.C.?" he asks. And why is it so odd?

"Driving... the people. Life is just so pressured, you know? I sometimes find myself just walking on streets in the middle of the night to free my mind a bit. It really can be overwhelming." One of those. Opens up easy, like a flower in the morning dewlight.

He says "huh."

She says she was visiting a sister. Another blonde.

"How was she?"

"Good. She just recently moved out there."

He's on the television. The Lakers are not doing well. A shame.

"So why is driving a pain in D.C.?"

"Oh," well, "everything is different. I'm just not used to it I suppose. I tell my husband that..."

Unimportant. Something about a Mercedes.

The bartender says "your tuna melt and fries," and he says "wrap that up to go, please. And give me a shot of J.D."

He says he has to go catch his flight, drinks a shot of whiskey, and smiles. She smiles back and says it was nice to meet him. The momentary pause of consideration and wonder lost in an instant as a loud paper bag is dragged along a bar and placed in a messenger bag, destined for the overhead storage compartment of an Embraer ERJ 145 on its way to Seattle.

He sits in the airport terminal for an additional forty five minutes and watches the lights slowly roll by the window as the arrivals are taxied into position.

 

A faintly lit airplane in the middle of the night is a den of philosophers. Travelers attempt to sleep as they reflect on the past and consider the future in the context of traveling aboard a time capsule. They enter, they sit, and just as quickly as they take off they arrive at their destination. These people had lives and fly quickly back to those lives, but in the airplane in the middle of the night they are frozen. The forty four minds are momentarily contained. The man in the brown waist coat and spectacles reads the card detailing the airplane’s emergency procedures as if he intends to follow the procedures if the plane were to fall over the Cascades stretching north below them, as if he was not going to panic and groan to the Lord to save him. The tanned German teenager and her boyfriend in the pink hooded sweatshirt talk softly among themselves, holding secret conversations and expressing what seem like hidden desires but are in actuality thoughts about the parents they left behind in order to take a vacation. He, too, is deep in thought and passes the time by assuming about those around him. Beyond a cough and a whisper there is silence, but silence screams loudest of all when every mind is abuzz with possibility and regret. Those left behind are remembered and those waiting for them are considered. The lights outside the window are few and far between, partially obscured by the engine located at the rear of the craft where he has been seated. Thunderous noise is not so noticeable when it is constant, and the silence remains undisturbed.

They do not serve meals on this flight.

 

The bus stop in front of an empty airport terminal at night is mostly devoid of life. Few people come and quickly go as they ride away in a taxi or hotel bus. There is no bus or taxi for him. He sits at the end of the curve in the road and watches the windows for approaching headlights from around the bend. The air is cold here. Do pigeons fly at night? Buildings are cold and lifeless and they are designed for efficiency, a trait that is as useless to the heart of the mind as wings on an elephant. He is patient to an extent and impatient enough to sit, then stand, then pace from one end of the walkway to the other. Time passes in hours at first, then minutes.

As he ponders an action and all possible reactions he rests his hand on a messenger bag and finds a strange warmth. Velcro tears and inside is the wonderful smell of a tuna melt and fries. Flashes of hunger spring into him and the plastic box is torn open. Buttered bread, now soggy, slides into his hands. The smell of shredded tuna fish whipped and spread with a tangy mayonnaise across the thick toast fill his nostrils and cause him to raise his head to the air for a dose of fresh air. A cold breeze through an aluminum bus stop’s slatted walls and moments later the tuna melt is in his hands and in his mouth, vanishing one bite at a time. Choking him as the clumps of softened food are forced down his throat followed by gulps of saliva for support. The tuna melt is gone in the span of a minute or two and the warm stale fries shortly after. He sits for a while as his esophagus is cleared and he returns to himself in the cold night at a bus stop at an airport. Reality is mere fantasy when there is nothing to keep a person grounded.

As the cold surrounds him he reaches into a gray nylon sack and removes from it a white towel, using it to envelop himself in vague warmth. The white towel stands out against the surface of the night's cloak, and this man stares at the windows waiting for headlights that will never come.

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