The sidewalk was still wet from the rain when I stepped out of the cab. As I paid the fare at the open trunk, she crossed quickly behind me and the cabby said "check out those legs!". By the time I turned I could only notice her shoulder length brunette hair as she blended into the stream of passengers filing through the doorway into the airport. But her sweet perfume lingered in the air after she passed. I followed the crowd to find the Delta counter and then headed toward the kiosks to print my boarding pass. As I approached I saw her vanish again beneath the boarding gate signs beyond the rows of monitors. I print my ticket before heading to the airport but today was booked solid with status meetings and making last minute updates to the half dozen decks "I own". I was rushed to get on the road and taking a cab to the airport added to my flying anxiety. I was relieved to be on the concourse train -- about to take the short walk to reach Gate C36 where my flight departed.
The regular gate attendants have come to know me after travelling to Boulder for 14 straight weeks. With as much travel I have done lately it has all become routine. And since my Sky Miles balance gives me a first class seat I never have to check-in with them. A few weeks ago I offered my seat when they called for volunteers because the flight was over booked. Lindsey promised I would have first class on the next flight plus the 400 Delta dollars voucher. The 90 minute wait made it seem like a fair trade. Ever since, Lindsey always has a bright smile for me which always helps me wind down and psyche myself into "take-off mode". Today I was satisfied to get on this plane, if they wanted volunteers I would watch the others make the trade.
Sure enough, as I approached the gate there was a huge crowd - overbooked again. They had started asking for volunteers and that's when I saw her again. The shoulder length hair was unmistakable. I was leaning against a column near the boarding door as I usually do. I was sure the gate attendant was explaining the deal of a lifetime when I noticed her red pocket book as she searched for something. She wore a trim business suit and I felt myself staring so I reached for my iPhone to find some sort of distraction. By the time I read a couple Google top news stories I lost sight of her again. Soon after they called for "special boarding passengers" and then it was my turn... finally in my seat - "Yes!" I was quick to board so I had plenty of time while coach loaded to visit the rest room then get back to my Chardonnay and my new book that I bought while waiting for my flight a few weeks ago.
When I exited the restroom I could see that first class had filled in but as I stepped into my row I stopped in my tracks. There she was sitting in the window seat next to me. As I sat down her sweet fragrance returned to me but she barely made eye contact as I buckled in. I have the gift of discernment and quickly recognized the crossed arms and stare out the window meant she had little to say. I found my book "Five People You Meet in Heaven", its a short book that I hoped to finish tonight. As a few late boarders passed in the aisle I noticed a woman glanced twice at her. It was a few seconds later that I heard a faint sniffle next to me and I realized she was crying. When she reached for her pocket book I saw her wet finger tips which saddened me. I tried to focus on my book. The flight attendant collected the glass ware and at our row she asked her what she might need. She only replied "no, I'm ok, thank-you". Her voice was soft but affirmative, but even in those few words I could detect her attempt for dignity.
The taxi way at DIA is long and today it seemed there were 100 planes in front of us because of the rain. I was glad for the leg room (again!). But as the minutes passed I could hardly turn a page because of her soft sobbing. I began to wonder who she was leaving behind that brought the tears. I started asking myself "is she leaving her family?" "is it her sister?" or maybe "its a boyfriend she won't see again for a while". I started to think that maybe I should say something to try to distract her thoughts. "But no - that's stupid" I told myself. It was then that I sank in my seat! In that moment, it dawned on me that she must know I was right there when that idiot cabby blurted his insulting praise of her, and I said nothing. I felt ashamed. I turned a couple pages backward to try to read what I missed while I was in my thoughts. And I hoped that in those pages I would prove myself wrong.
As the plane turned toward take off position she leaned forward into the window to look back toward the terminals. Trying not to be obvious, I looked at her face and could see the shining lines of tears on her red cheeks. As she sat back new tears welled up in her eyes again... farewell tears for somebody she loves. I felt more compelled to say something - I wanted to help. I am too soft hearted myself to bear seeing somebody alone and sad like this. But I couldn't find any words. "I would only make her feel worse" I told myself. As we lifted past the rush of takeoff she picked up her pocket book again, clutching it in her hands. I was reading words from my pages but my mind was still trying to help her. I finally took a long, deep breath. As I opened my mouth, my hand reached into my sport coat pocket and I said "please..." . Her eyes met mine, then she glanced to my hand. Taking my handkerchief she wiped her cheeks then looked back at me and whispered: "thank you, you are so sweet".
Before I knew it the flight had landed and I had I finished my book - all the while sitting with her and her sweet, quiet fragrance.