They live in molded plastic chairs bolted to the floor before the great black window of Gate B4, looking at the glass when they can bear to see reflections of what they’ve become, or through it at the sky that never brings their son’s plane home. Since the brief but disturbing theatrics of the day of the crash, they’ve not been asked to move by anyone. When it’s his turn to scan the blue, he makes a little pillow of the fresh dry-cleaning that’s always arriving, and lays his wife’s surprisingly red-haired head gently to rest. Nobody stopped him when he dismantled the armrest that kept his sweetheart from lying fully down. Yes, I’ll wake you when they make the announcement, dear; no, I won’t doze. Yes, I’ll wake you the minute. Counselors and investigators have taken their turns at them, but still they wait. Family was called, and came, and overstayed to no effect, and celebrated the holidays at Gate B4, and finally had to be asked to leave, and left. Now tight-haired women in dark blue suits with smart piping and little winged lapels drop by with flight status updates and weather reports they deliver in flat mid-American accents, gently, firmly, certainly sir, I’ll check on that ma’am, no, no news is good news. Strategically, in their reports, the barometer is always on the rise, visibility is to the horizon and all the equipment is A-OK. Yes, there are showers at airports. Think about it. There would have to be. And food. And banks. Logistically, it’s not complex. They live at Gate B4, stubbornly, stiffened by denial of loss. And then their son arrives uncrashed and deplanes without baggage. Their reunion is like a first meeting. He embraces them, grateful for family, as if they’d never met.

Copyright © February 15, 2007 David Hodges