Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Coffee with cream

I have never figured out how to pack lightly for a trip. I almost always have a suitcase the size of a small whale, and three carry ons, each the size of a baby sea lion. It is a miracle if I make it onto the plane without accidentally hitting a fellow passenger in the head with my sea lion luggage.

Once my luggage is stowed away and I've settled into my seat, I enjoy watching the rest of the plane board. I have this fantasy that one day a tall, single man with kind eyes will board the plane, make his way back to his seat, and then, wow, what do you know, realize that his seat is right next to mine.

In my fantasy, he notices that I'm reading Dallas Willard's Divine Conspiracy and asks if I've read Willard's Renovation of the Heart, too. At which point I say, yes, yes, I will marry you. Just tell me when and where.

Actually, we end up talking easily for the entirety of the flight, and realize that we live in neighboring towns and have mutual friends. We also happen to have a lot of common interests, but we're still different. Really different. Because different is the spice of life. Just before landing he asks for my number, and I gladly give it.

But I've never seen a tall single man with kind eyes on any of my flights, and so I just stick to people watching, sleeping, and engaging in conversations with the non-tall-single-with-kind-eyes-folks in my aisle.

Today I observe as the flight attendant offers the elderly, foreign man across the aisle from me a water bottle.

"Eez three?" he croaks.

"Pardon?" says the flight attendant.

"Eez three?" He sounds like the Godfather lost in the desert without a water bottle. Except with a Swedish/Portuguese/German accent.

Ah, yes, yes it is free.

The older man gratefully takes the bottle, opens its top with a *pop* and takes a gulp.

I gulp too — the misty-eyed kind of gulping. Because I find myself wondering who he is, and how he came to be on a plane by himself in a foreign country at the age of almost-90.

I also think of days that make my spirit is especially weary and parched— the days when Jesus draws in close and offers my soul living water.

"Is it free?" I'm prone to croak, raspy with thirst.

And every time he smiles yes, yes it's free. But still, I have trouble believing it.

And I wonder if this man's soul is thirsty, too.

A few minutes pass and I notice his fingers are too stiff and gnarled to open his trail mix. So I offer to open it for him, and then ask him where he's from. He tells me he's from Brazil, but his thick accent makes me wonder how many languages he speaks. He tells me seven.

We decide to speak in Spanish since his English is so poor.

Then he tells me about his wife who died two years ago from dementia. He says he's ready to go now — there's nothing about his life that seems worth hanging around for. But his life with her, well, it was good.

He tells me they met working in a restaurant in Sweden over 60 years ago. She was beautiful. So he jokingly asked her what she'd say if he asked her to marry him.

Two weeks later she comes to him and says, I've given it some thought, and I will marry you. But I was joking! he says. Too late, she replies. I like you. And we're getting married.

So he tells her he'll take her on a date first. "Where shall we go?" she asks.

My new friend lowers his voice and cups his mouth, preparing to tell me a secret.

"I tell her I like Italian opera" he whispers.

Then he throws back his head and laughs, his eyes crinkled with mirth. I laugh too, because secrets are such fun.

He regains his composure, and for the rest of the flight regales me with stories of life with his wife.

As he talks I notice that his eyes mirror his face. They are brown and warm, like coffee with cream — the same hue as his weathered skin. They are lined with a thin ring of silver that matches the silver hair framing his face with wispy tufts. I think I see kindness mixed into his coffee with cream, and I imagine his warm eyes filled his little wife right full to brimming.

And I think to myself how nice it is when men have kind eyes.

© by scj