The boy sitting across from me has the unkempt, derelict look that the young seem to favor. Snarled streaked hair that resembles the back-end of a Collie, a black wool knit cap resting on a skinny thigh. Self-conscious foot-tapping too rhythmic to be restlessness. He wears thick black-framed glasses and a goatee that looks like pale cake frosting. He looks up from his phone, stares at the ingress and egress of the specialty stores ($5 for bottled water!) with a bored pantomime of someone who’s seen it all. I say “boy”, but he could be anywhere from 17 to 35. The froth of hair makes it hard to pin it down. He’s wearing work boots over his jean cuffs, but the ‘work’ part is only for esthetics. Not a smudge, not a nick or scar, and flopping mismatched bootlaces.
My hands folded over a newspaper I haven’t opened. My eyeglasses are in my pocket so everything is hazy-blurred. Colors, movements, the shape of Collie beside me, tapping his foot. At least a couple of hours before scheduled boarding time, but it’s still snowing. Could be an overnight delay. Sorry, Connie.
When I left home for the last time, it was deep summer, the smell of tall corn living inside the air. Going back will be like stepping into a black and white photograph. I remember the smells of lilac and the spongy wet soil from the back garden. Linen sheets banking against the wind, snapping like bullwhips; a turquoise colored sky. Cindy sitting beside me, hands folded, her face sour from denied tears and anger. It’ll be all right, I said. I don’t know if I believed it or not. The objective was to get away, far away. Away from the small talk, the speculation, the punctuated stares wherever we went. The smell of damp earth followed us for at least a hundred miles.