Written by DeAnna Erdmann
His shoulders were slightly hunched forward, not like he was weighted down, but more so like he was sad. He wasn’t a tall man. He would never be called short though. His soft purple polo shirt was pressed smooth and the collar was crisp and buttoned all the way up. He had tucked his shirt into his khaki slacks and fastened his waist with a smart dark brown leather belt. His eyes were a profound honey brown, with deep laugh lines folded happily into their corners. His soft full lips were outlined with the same happy lines, whose depths only seemed to add to the laughter that was peaking through his eyes. His dark skin was soft looking and shiny, as though he had spent hours rubbing cocoa butter into his arms and face. His pride in his appearance made me honored just to see him. He shuffled slightly, although his walk was still predominantly proud and straight. He took the first seat at the gate opening, making sure that anyone who walked through the arrivals gate would see him clearly. He lay the bouquet of flowers he had brought across his lap. The blue and yellow flowers played attractively off of his pants and shirt.
I had worked the information desk at “arrivals” everyday this week and each day it was the same. He arrived a little after 1 pm. He sat in the front and smiled warmly at everyone that came through and laughed and clapped or tapped his hand on his leg when the person found their family and friends. It was like seeing their warm embrace lifted his spirits. He would stay until around 4pm and then slowly and happily make his way back toward the parking, his bouquet in hand. Every day I find myself more invested in why he comes and who he is waiting for, but for some reason I have had a difficult time gaining the courage to ask. I took a deep breath and smoothed my airport uniform. Today was day six and I just can’t let him leave without asking. I timidly make my way over to him.
He smiled warmly at me. “Can I take this seat?” I ask, indicating the seat next to him. He nodded his yes and patted the chair. “I am sorry to bother you sir. I have just noticed you coming in everyday looking so joyful and well put together. You bring flowers as though you are greeting someone, but every day you leave alone. I was wondering if you would be willing to tell me your story?”
“Why, I am hardly a sir, but thank you for that.” He licked his lips slightly. “Well, I don’t really know. My wife and I used to come sit at the airport to watch the arrivals. Family happiness meant so much to us. Since Essie passed I have developed a habit of buying her favorite flowers everyday. For a while I sat at the cemetery, but the weather changed and the cold made my knees ache. So then I would buy her flowers and walk in the park or go see a movie. A few days ago I had such a happy time of remembering the things we used to do together, so I had to come back. So here I am, Essie’s flowers in hand, watching the joy of family and friends being reunited.”
I wiped a tear from my cheek. “Wow, that is beautiful.” He patted my knee… “No, my dear… life is beautiful.”