Four A.M., Gate C-10
Here they are, linked by lances of light. This man and woman pull their pasts along like luggage on little wheels, dragging their hearts across the glossy floor, ignoring the heavy tug. In a distant concourse, winged silver prepares to roar away into broken day, morning revealing itself as a muse for the new.
A brief exchange cements their ten-minute acquaintance, hormones melding for an eyeblink. "My destination?" the man replies. "Do we ever really know?" They trade glances at ringed fingers, gaze off to the blue dawn caged in plate glass, the burnished orange of empty lockers. The man's tired, back-brain visions recall gold Minnesota fields, wheat harvested in a riot of hope, the childhood farmhouse razed for good riddance and fortunes lost after four generations, careful sentiments mauled in the maw of the combine.
The woman's thoughts surge ahead to St. Paul, to the baptism of a broad-faced baby that she will meet only once. Twenty years ago, she was unknowingly born into the center of that circle, squalling red-faced as the priest blessed her. Tomorrow she will be a mere onlooker in a dark dress, prepared also for a funeral, if need be.
This barely connected team slides through the polished hall, where floor traces ceiling, rows of rivets aligned like windows in a phantom airship. Although neither is thinking of UFOs, both have seen these dots cross the dark heavens. The woman took a video. The man vaguely remembers finding himself inside one of these ships, transported into frightening unfamiliarity, losing his soul to star-ghosts. It changed him forever. But these two will never know this about each other.
He glances at his vacant face in a shop window and catches his startling appearance-—too much gray, too many lines that he must wait in. In the distance, there is a little man behind his reflection who worships this couple, wishing they'd be kissing in a gyrating way, wanting that attachment for himself. He turns his back.
The temporary tryst between these chance companions extends when the woman leaves her bag with the man while she enters the restroom. Her period has come after six weeks, and she sighs-—no need for confession, or baptism either. She washes her hands and returns to the concourse, where the man glances at a dim timepiece, the 4:02 quiet and small.
His cell phone chimes in a deep pocket, and he opens it, shrugs off the wrong number, shakes his head at the woman's slight smile. She imagines another woman there, a frantic wife trying to reach an unfaithful husband, or a son in trouble. Someone. Somewhere. Who could ever know? An ocean-like sky of possibility spins out, folds them in. So much remains undefined. In separate pools of reverie, they turn to the task of travel and focus on the next gate, their fate too late to anticipate as their shared lives dissipate.