Just like a big boy

Sleeping well, at least for my rapidly evolving standards, provides practical as well as emotional support, allowing me to walk without incident from the airport hotel to the check in counters. I wait in line, renewed confidence gradually calming my rapidly beating heart: I’ve done this hundreds of times, I remind myself; it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.

With my main bag checked, I prepare mentally to transit security. I glance at my boarding pass for the departure gate, and my pulse races in a burst of adrenaline: it is in the unfamiliar south concourse.

Fortunately, security is empty, one of few benefits of a 7:05 am Sunday departure. Deciphering airport signage goes smoothly, still, the slightest movement takes tremendous effort and everything I do is so damn slow. I get to the south concourse train with lots of time to spare, but I’m unable to calm my mind, eyes furiously darting from face to face in hope of recognition, until—much to my surprise—they lock onto one.

I’ve made this mistake before in my desperation to see a friendly face, with imagination and hallucination interchanging in rapid succession. Is that Brad?

At the other end of a cluster of people waiting to board the train is a pair of uniformed pilots. The captain looks like an old friend from navy days, not seen since 2017 when he and his wife attended a local presentation I was giving on The Lost Intruder. He catches my eye and starts walking over.

It is Brad. Instantly relieved, my heart swells with gratitude, and, suddenly, I’m overwhelmed with a fervent sense of well-being and a deep abiding love for nothing; for everything. My eyes moisten, and voice chokes as I struggle to speak, and I’m suddenly grateful to be alive.

“Hi Brad,” I sputter, an impossibly broad smile gracing my face. Despite incorrigible hardship of inevitable magnitude, I am joyful to be in life. Brad and his first officer, each pulling a wheeled, black suitcase, amble with casual ease to where I stand. We start to talk.

“Traveling alone, Pete?” Brad asks, oblivious to the pertinence of the question.

“Yes,” I answer in a slight slur. “Just like a big boy.”

Overcome with a feeling of well-being, I stand and smile.

It is all okay; it really is.

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