I was at the airport. 

I thought since it was July 4th, people would be partying at beaches and bars and the crowds would be thin. 

Nobody wants to miss a holiday. My rationale was flawed because everyone was racing to Miami. 

It’s never too late to drink. 

The 4th is 24 hours long.

Independence in 2021 is mistaken freedom from masks to White Claw. 

Hard times traded for hard seltzer.

But then again, I’m no exception.

I was at the airport. 

I was going to see my dad with dementia, not a hot tub.

I smiled with my eyes under my mask and waited patiently for people to pass. 

I wasn’t annoyed. 

I wasn’t in a hurry. 

I was going to see my dad with dementia.

“Excuse me, can I plug my phone in here?”, I asked the  stocky man standing in front of the  power outlet. My iPhone was on three percent. A young girl licked her cheeto fingers as she stood to my left. Her brother kicked the back of a stroller wheel. A dead goldfish was under the recycle bin. The air of stress and anxiety shuffled on the bottom of travelers shoes. The jarring intercom announcements lifted shoulders out of relaxation, but eyes were glued to screens. Gate  B21 smelled of toxic lavender scented air fresheners. The pole with the power outlet was littered with people searching for security in a full charge. The fifty something stocky man wore a blue disposable mask that slipped from his small nose with any facial movement. His generous, light hazel eyes squinted and twitched with excitement. He wore a baggy, grey polyester  t-shirt with a peeling non descript logo. It  pilled with overuse, but it wasn’t dirty. His oversized knee length athletic shorts had a clean white stripe on the side. His crisp white socks connected the hem of his shorts, meeting his Nike Air Jordan’s with vinyl black toe caps. 

His white was clean. The airport was dirty.

His head was peppered with small black pin holes foreshadowed baldness. A scab on his forehead. My suede purse was disheveled on my black suitcase, exposing a People Magazine. My shoulder  squeezed amongst robots vying for an electrical port . 

I was no different. 

My toes  were cold in my sandals from the invisible icy air blowing from stale vents.

“Oh ya, sorry, no problem”, stocky airport man said to me with charged and giddy excitement.

He went from zero to one hundred  before I  stood up from plugging in my iPhone.  

I don’t remember his intro line that began our conversation. 

Not ours, but his. 

It was  one of those moments where I was more comfortable to have fake shallow conversation than to be in awkward silence.

It wasn’t fake to him.

I wasn’t aware that I was comfortable nor uncomfortable. 

There was no before or after. 

There was just him. 

He was an obstacle to the plug.  

His arms and legs gestured faster than his mouth could move. 

I couldn’t tell if he was on Coke, had a mental condition or he was just one of those people that talked non stop. 

I didn’t say a word. I couldn’t.

He had  three  kids, a daughter and two sons. 

His wife hated to cook. 

He was a good cook. 

She was only good for sex and cleaning the house.  

She now does drugs and so does his daughter.  

That’s a sin.

They were married in a church. 

He wished them luck and sent them off with his prayers. 

I knew it was serious when he clapped his hands like he was dusting off flour to make a pizza.

His ex-wife’s grandfather and dad also did drugs. 

Not him. 

He’s from South Central and has seen it all. 

It’s bad. 

His son has a nice house, he’s a smart kid. 

Just like him. 

He got it from him. 

He never worked for anyone that paid minimum wage. 

He provided a house and $500 a week for his wife. 

He’s a machine operator. 

He eats healthy and stays active so he doesn’t need one of those Covid shots.

His fingers poked his arm as he gestured a fake needle. 

It made me jump. 

He was less than six feet from my face. 

I fake smiled. 

He couldn’t see.

He isn’t a racist, but he thinks white people are. 

I am white. I looked at his socks.

I fake smiled.  

His brother volunteered to get deported to get out of prison, to just come back again, freely. 

“Um, did your brother kill someone?”, I asked as if we were sharing vodka sodas at a bar and we could be stupid.

“No, he just laundered money”, stocky airport man said and laughed as if I was joking.

I fake smiled. 

I heard a green card mentioned, but he seemed to realize he shouldn’t be narking on his brother’s luck. 

I could have been a risk.

I fake smiled.

He lives in Reno, and he thinks he should drive to LA next time.

But, he can save time flying with a boarding pass. His was printed. 

He waved it in my face like a $100 dollar bill. 

I felt embarrassed because everyone must have seen us. 

I looked left and right.

He looked at me.

I fake smiled.

I cared what people thought of stocky airport man, with wild enthusiasm hoarding my time 

and my fake smile. 

Was I trapped, should they help me? 

Was I too weak to handle the situation on my own?  

Maybe they were embarrassed for me. 

I waste time thinking about myself, that I don’t see myself.

I admire stocky airport man.  

I was enthrawled by his ease. I felt uneasy.

He had a story, I have a story.

He wasn’t afraid of his.

He was absent of embarrassment.


If  I stole  half of stocky airport man’s comfort with his truth, I may get a glimpse of mine.

I had questions that I wanted to ask. 

But then he would have had more answers.  

I bent down and removed my iPhone charger. 

I fake smiled 

at the electrical port.

His voice followed my back.

I stood.

I wanted something he didn’t need.

He looked out of hazel eyes and I saw him.

We smiled through our masks. 

His mask dropped to reveal a mole on his nose.

I faked that I was hungry and needed to get food before the flight. 

I hoped he believed me and wouldn’t see me head to knowhere. 

I looked backwards as I walked away.

He disappeared to Reno with his printed boarding pass. 

I smiled. 

For real.