The Man in the Fine Suit

I saw him standing in the waiting area of the airport
He was in a fine suit, silver-haired, fit, nicely-groomed
He looked successful
A man came up to him – a colleague, perhaps – and they
chatted and laughed together for a while
I filed the silver-haired man away in my mental
bank of characters

On the plane I discovered him again – seated on
the opposite side of the aisle, one row up –
in economy class – I hadn’t expected that

In the same row as the one in which I sat –
on the opposite side of the aisle – was a young
family – father, a daughter of two or three years
with pink ribbons in her hair, her mother
The trip would not be an easy one for the family
The little girl was cranky – tired, screaming,
crying, unhappy with this turn of events
The woman sitting in front of me covered
her ears and glared at the little family
I turned off my hearing aid and settled in

I am a mother
I could relate

Our plane landed, rolled down the tarmac,
parked in front of the gate
I leaned over and asked the little girl if she’d
just had her first flight on an airplane
She looked back at me with big eyes, quiet now
Her mother said no, she’d been on other flights,
and she’s usually such a good traveler…
“You did a good job,” I assured the mother
“You did what you could. Your daughter
is precious…”

The mother laughed in relief – I think she’d been
expecting me to speak different words to her
“We’ve both been sweating,” she said, glancing
over at her young husband, who smiled back
at me and nodded his head in confirmation
of his wife’s words – I think I saw steam rising
from their armpits – it had been a rough ride

And then the silver-haired man stood to grab
his suitcase from the overhead bin
He turned back to the mother and quietly spoke
to her – I saw her smile up at him and heard her
thank him – and he nodded and returned the smile

And that moment told me everything I needed
to know about the man in the fine suit
– Karen Molenaar Terrell