Sunday, March 27, 2011


It was Friday afternoon and I had just grabbed my bag off the turnstile and headed outside for a post-flight cigarette. Shivering a little in my denim jacket and already missing the warm breezes and hot sun of Palm Beach, I fumbled in my bag for my lighter near a concrete bench, when out of nowhere, I heard a voice and sensed a presence in front of me. I looked up to see a tall young man with his hand out. "Do ye have a cigarette?"
As I looked up, he added, "Is that ok to do in America?"
"Of course...."handing him a Virginia Slim and lighting him up, "we are friendly people here in America. Smokers always like to help each other out."
He took a deep drag and I sized him up...probably 34 or so, strawberry, close-cropped hair, a preppy vest and button-down shirt, khakis, a wardrobe bag over his shoulder, broad shoulders hunched against the Chicago wind.
Making conversation, the kind fellow smokers make in their little approved smoking areas when traveling, I asked him where he was from.
" for a wedding. And, fucking Lord (excuse me), I am so drunk! So fucking drunk, by the Christ. Can the TSA arrest me?" he asked with real concern.
I assured him that I didn't think so, unless he made a scene, but that he seemed ok to me.
Turns out he was in Chicago for a wedding. Turns out that he has a sister in Palm Beach. He told me his mother has red hair like me. Robert was the best part of my trip home.
I gave him a couple more cigarettes before I left and as I headed for the train hoped he would be ok finding a cab and making it to his hotel. This guy, drunk after nine hours on a plane and too many beers. I imagined that he was quite a hit on the plane. I imagined toasting and bawdy jokes. I regretted that I didn't think to take his picture.
I really love to travel. Besides drinking in the new sights, sounds and smells of a different place, there is always the random encounter with other beings who you will never meet again, who are strangers but in some way familiar, with connections to you, who remind you of someone, somewhere, a memory, a wish.
At Jensen Beach I tried out the telephoto lens of my camera on some gulls and other shore birds. One brave bird circled our blanket with his mouth open, looking for a handout. There he was, seemingly out of nowhere, hoping for something. Like Robert.


Jul said...

I know the scene, the experience, the photo, and I miss you. I love you. Jul

annie hagar said...

By the Christ! This is great, mama.