I wrote this story after I wrote a song called “Airport Song.” It’s based off musings about what would happen if I ran into Jesus in a public place. It just happened to be an airport for some reason, and I think it works well. I haven’t really edited it much, but it’s very short. Furthermore, the narrator in the story sin’t necessarily me. She’s sort of based on me, but I’ve altered some details. Anyway, here it is.
If I Saw You In The Aairport
I was on my way to California when I met him. I had never been to California, and now I was going. I was finally going. I was so excited to see the West Coast. I guess I’ve always sort of had an idealized idea of what it’s like. I had never really left New England up until that point, and I was nervous as I checked my bags, got a hot dog and found my gate. The airport was extremely crowded on that day. It was early May, and still a bit chilly in Boston. It had been a long winter, and it seemed, or at least I guessed, that everyone was headed somewhere warm.
Finally I found a place to sit that was slightly less crowded near one of the big windows that look out over the runway. I sat for a moment in silence, rather breathless, and then, to pass the time, I dug out my phone and looked up the weather in San Francisco. Eighty degrees and sunny for the next week. Perfect. I had at least an hour to kill, so I ate my hot dog, played some games on my phone, checked Facebook and called my grandmother. Then I noticed the time and saw that I would be boarding my flight in twenty five minutes.
It was at that moment that a young man, I guessed a few years older than myself walked up carrying only a small carry-on bag with him. He looked tired, and perhaps a bit distracted, but content. When he noticed me watching him he said, “Hello.”
“Hello,” I said. “Are you looking for a place to sit?” There were several empty seats on either side of me at the moment.
He smiled and said, “Yes.”
“Well, sit down,” I said. “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know,” he said as he took a seat. “I’m waiting to see.”
“Who I’m traveling with.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll know where I’m going once I know who I’m going with. That’s all.”
“But what if you find out the person you’re supposed to be going with has already left?” I felt that I had been rather cleaver in asking this question.
“They haven’t. I’ll find them before they leave.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because I believe it.”
It felt to me as if this conversation was going in circles. Clearly this man was crazy.
“I’m not crazy,” he said as if he knew what I was thinking. I figured since I would be leaving in a few minutes that it would be at least interesting to continue the conversation, and I would have a reasonable, not-rude excuse to cut it off if it got weird.
“Alright. I didn’t say you were crazy,” I said patiently.
“You were thinking it, though. Where are you going?”
“Have you been there before?”
“No, I haven’t. It’s sort of a little present to myself. I just graduated college.”
“Congratulations,” he said, so sincerely that I was actually touched by this over-used, uninteresting word.
“Thanks… Have you ever been to California before?”
“A few times. I’ve been just about everywhere for my work.”
“Really? What do you do for work?”
“I guess you could say I’m a teacher.”
“Like a traveling professor?”
“In a way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I don’t get paid because I don’t charge my students. I hardly ever spend a whole lot of time in one place, and I’ve never been tied to one institution. All I ask is that people listen, think about it, and spread the word.”
“How do you live if you don’t get paid?”
“I live off the charity of others.”
“It’s part of my teaching. I want people to be kind to one another.”
“I’ve never heard of anyone like you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Then you’ve misunderstood.”
“You’ve misunderstood what you say you believe in.”
I was silent for a moment. I was very confused at this point, and my plane was leaving in just a few minutes, but for some reason I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to know more.
“You’ll miss your flight,” he said, once again reading my thoughts.
“That’s alright… I’ll catch another.”
“I’m glad. I like talking to you.”
He was silent for a moment, then he said, “If you could go anywhere, where would you go?”
“Right now, somewhere warm. Anywhere warm.”
“What about Africa?”
“Have you ever been to the desert?”
“Well, once when I was very little, but I hardly remember.”
“It can be beautiful, but also unforgiving. I spent a long time in the desert once.”
“Were you lost?”
“No, but I did a lot of thinking. Things were different after that for me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I guess you could say I came into my own. I knew what my purpose was.”
“And what was that?”
“To make the world better than it was before. That’s what my teaching is all about.”
After a moment I asked, “Do you know where you’re going yet?”
“Not yet, but I’m getting an idea.”
We sat in silence for another minute, then I asked, “Would you like something to eat? I’ll buy you something.”
“Alright. Thank you. I appreciate it.”
“Great. Do you like pizza? I saw a pizza place around here somewhere.”
“I’ll eat anything. Pizza sounds good.”
We walked over to the pizza place, and I bought him a couple slices of pizza and a bottle of ginger ale for us to share. When we got back to where we had been sitting we discovered that our seats had been taken, so we wandered around the airport, looking to see where all the flights were going. During this time we didn’t talk much. It didn’t feel like we had to. For some reason I felt very comfortable around this man even though he was a bit strange. I led the way as we walked from one end of the airport to the other. The whole place was very crowded and noisy. There were people standing in long lines waiting for food and sitting around talking about where they were going and what they would do when they got there. I wondered if my new friend was listening to any of these conversations. I didn’t understand what he was looking for in his mystery traveler, and I eventually thought that it might as well be me.
We sat down near a random gate. The flight was leaving for Nebraska in an hour. I thought about buying a ticket for this flight, but dismissed the idea as frivolous.
I asked my friend, “Would you like to go somewhere with me?”
“Yes, I would.”
“Okay. Where should we go?”
“Well, where haven’t you been?”
“I’ve been just about everywhere. Where haven’t you been?”
I laughed. “Everywhere. I mean anywhere. I’ve hardly left New England.”
“How about Istanbul?”
“Alright,” I said. “Why?”
“Because you haven’t been there.”
“Okay. When should we go?”
“What if there isn’t a flight tonight?”
“There will be. Don’t worry.”
“How do you know?”
“It’s meant to be.”
“You wanna bet?”
“No, I don’t.”
“We don’t have any hotel reservations or anything.”
“That’s alright. We’ll manage. We’ll find a place to stay.”
“A lot of people think so.”
“We haven’t packed the right stuff to go all that way,” I said, looking at his small bag, and thinking of all my luggage, which was now on its way to California.
“Don’t worry about that. You don’t need a whole lot, really.”
I laughed. “Alright. I’ll go with you to Istanbul. Just don’t let me get lost.”
“I won’t. Just stay with me.”
“Alright, but what about my stuff? I missed me flight to California.”
“I’ll take care of it.”
“Yes. Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” I said after a moment. “I do.”
“So it’s settled then.”