A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2007, vol 3 no 3

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Priscilla van Valkenburg


The Airport

The alarm went off this morning at 4:30 so that I could stand in this line for nearly an hour in order to get re-routed for my delayed flight. In the line ahead of me are about ten Latinos of various ages, carting eight tv size boxes--Asian cardboard ripped and dented and held together with wide blue tape randomly applied.

The frenzied attendant is trying to figure out weights per person. One of the Latino women grimly deals out bills from a wad of money in her hand. A teenage girl, tenderly holding the toddler's baby doll upside down, kneels on the floor and tosses three pairs of white athletic shoes and a pair of tiny shorts in an empty suitcase. Everyone looks worried, from the frazzled attendant to the group of travelers and relatives, milling, interpreting, and frowning. The teenager, the only English speaker in the group, carries a small, bright pink purse obviously containing vital papers and additional cash. She seems to be arranging details with the airline. More confabbing.

Then the hugging–the teen and the woman hug and cry while a young boy circles and watches. I assume that he disapproves of such emotion but when it's his turn, he too cries. An older woman with a stricken look on her face makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the toddler. The men are now lugging the cartons and suitcases over to the scanner. One more hug. Then they all disappear.

the airport line
moving forward–
moving back