The Encounter!

The Encounter!

9 mins

What lies within!

   Restaurants, cafes, and commercial stores line the Terminal, wafting the thick aroma of freshly baked delicious chocolate fudge cake and pastries towards her as she was passing by. Nothing tempted her except the store which was enough to satisfy her hunger. Lisa, a mid 40 lady, walks over the closest bookstore.

  She was travelling to Dubai for a conference to deliver a speech on psychological disorders at Heriot-Watt University, Dubai. She is a woman of substance; who’s gone through adversity and even if she didn’t “win” comes out on the other end stronger, smarter; a woman who “uses” her life…. She isn’t a spectator. 

  As she enters the store; she greets the lady behind the counter. She quickly went on throughout the shelves, browsing each section of the books. After she grabs few books of her choice, she walked up to the terminal gate 3A for her flight to Dubai via Istanbul. She looked around for a place to sit until the boarding.

   As she wandered her eyes, she saw a seat empty. She rushed to the place and took that seat. She carefully set her books inside her backpack after she picked one. 

   Lounging on a leather sofa, she sighed as she relaxed on the couch and flips the pages. Although she got down with the book, she couldn’t be more disturbed by the coughing of the person on the adjacent seat. Nothing was more bothersome than a hacking cough that just doesn’t seem to go…. The nagging cough disturbed her concentration; she reached out for her backpack. Inside, she searched for her water bottle and gave it to the man without even a glance to the man. The man relieved himself with a sigh, “Pardon me”. He took a mouthful of water and relieved himself from that irritable cough which almost choked him up. As he returning her bottle, she merely held her hand up as if she wasn’t interested in that bottle anymore. Her crude gesture offended him but couldn’t help himself from apologizing. 

   She anxiously raised her wrist to look at her watch and whispered, “Damn! Still, an hour to go!” The man next to her observed her for a while and spoke in a comforting manner, “Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savoured.” 

  The reaction from the man was quite discommoding so Lisa looked at him, then dropped her gaze to the book. The first thing she noticed about the man was his hair mussed and sleep circles under his eyes that looked tired as if he hasn’t slept for days.

  He straightened himself on the seat and relaxed his head on the back of the seat, looking up the rotating fan just above his head and whispered, “Earl Nightingale.”

   A man of substantial knowledge of writers, she thought.

  “Who cares, anyway?” she responded. Lisa sounded exasperated.

  He could feel the frustration in her voice.

  His mouth curled into a smile as if he sensed her watching him. Despite everything, the thought gave him a jolt of dissatisfaction of Lisa.

  “Life has so much to offer you, today might look not so upright to look upon, but tomorrow is a new day that someone out there yearns for it.” 

  She swallowed the lump in her throat and stared straight ahead, obviously digesting his words. She wanted to stop him, to a certain extent, but she couldn’t. For certain he’d see how unfair that was, how deplorable to comment on life that way.

 The sentiment was in her mind but she had no intention of speaking it. Nonetheless, the words came out anyway, “You hardly know me, so stop commenting on life or anybody. Are you a Saint?”

  She paused a moment.

“Listen, I don’t want to get involved in any of this. So, I’d appreciate it if you would just pretend I am not here,” she said.

 The man had a smile on his face at her response. He faced at her in such a manner that Lisa thought he was insane or just weird passenger travelling to unleash his boredom to other fellow passengers. 

   She was distracted by the man, couldn’t focus on the book that she was reading and secretly glances at him once more. The longer he spoke, the more certain she felt that by his words he was disturbed and troubled in his own life.

   Lisa ignored him and continued reading. The man interrupted her in an apologising tone, “Sorry, I just raced away with my own share of philosophy.” Such an attitude from the man next to him made her think and calmed her nerves and said, “It happens. You are forgiven.” The man nodded and looked pleased enough with the response. 

   As she flipped the page of the book, she couldn’t stop wondering but to inquire about the strange and awkward behaviour of the man. So she turned and looked at the man whose eyes were closed and resting with his hands folded. His clothes were dirty and wrinkled, his face tired and unshaven. The sight of the man made her more curious about him, who looked well-disciplined, but the person he was, weird and strange. She pitied him for the person he was, but not for the way he looked. 

    As she continued looking at the man, he spoke suddenly with his eyes closed, “You must be wondering why I spoke to you such a way, right?” Her heart almost falling out from her mouth and was surprised with this strangest character next to her. She decided to shrug the thought away and closed the book that she was reading.

   “Are you a Psychic?” she responded. 

   “I am only trying to make you see the situation can be worse than what you plan for.”, he continued.“One of the challenges that we face, particularly at a certain situation has all of these unresolved thoughts, words, and beliefs that have nowhere to go,” he added.

  These opinions can end up marinating in her soul, driving her crazy, for hours, days, weeks, months or even longer… She should have been upset, but she felt oddly tranquil upon learning that she would not be overreacting with the man.  

  There was something unusual about the man next to her. Only she could not pacify herself with these reflections; a feeling akin to remorse troubled her when she thought of his remarks. It was patent that what disturbed her most was that she had grieved herself over a period of a long time.

  He broke in before she could get carried off. 

  “You can’t hide it forever.” He leveled out. “Live each day trusting in yourself and your ability to be lucky, and over time you will be.”

   Lisa thought it was better to abstain from further conversation for time being. She wasn’t interested anymore of the soulful advice from this man so she picked up the book and continued reading where she’d left off.

  By the time, she turned the page an uncomfortable feeling in the centre of her stomach. The feeling of being abandoned by those she cared about was becoming unnerving. Before she could say anything, she felt her strength waning as she recalls how she had been through a rough phase and living in a funk.

  The conscious cerebration snapped her back to reality. An ironic smile curved his lips and said, “I do apologize, madam. Could you forgive me my outburst? I am trying to comfort you, my dear, and I only upset and saddened you more.”

  Lisa sighed and shook her head a bit.

  The man rested his head on the headrest. He kept his voice low and softened his tone. “Only if I could have been at home when my daughter was born, but in vain, I kept my priorities aside.” Lisa eyed on the book but she could hear the man trying to explain the importance of each moment in life. All she could hear about was how certain periods of life should be considered a gift and appreciate the several things of life.

   He explained that he would have set the priorities as no one knew he was here. He’d have wanted it that way. 

 With a pause in the middle of the conversation, Lisa got to the point, her mind standstill. She sensed her power to make a choice to the urge to correcting human experience.

  “Flight A613 to Baghdad will be departing shortly; all the passengers are requesting to proceed for Boarding.” An impersonal voice states on the intercom, causing the man to race into his backpack and make a quick glance at the boarding pass before rushing out. 

  “That’s me” he enunciated with a weary smile. 

   He went off lifting up his backpack and grabbed his coat and wore it.

  She looked at him and nodded, then dropped her gaze to her watch. She notices that her watch reads 5:29 p.m. She didn’t bid farewell. As she stood up, she grabbed her coat from the seat and go forward in the opposite direction.

  As Lisa sat on the plane, she couldn’t help herself being miserably sorry for the man she came across at the lounge before she walked up to the terminal to catch her flight to Dubai. The abstruseness in the eyes of that man yearned desire of the moments he spent with his family. Deep down she had the itch to know who he was, and what made him to be miserable yearning to spend more time with family, why he had to take a flight when his daughter was just 1 month old and the wife diagnosed with amnesia, what compelled him to leave behind everything and run away from the situation like that.

  Intrigued, she gazes through the window looking into the distance; her eyes fixed on a plane maneuvering through the mountainous region before swooping down and gliding above the runaway, then, parting perfectly.

  Once she got to the hotel where she had been put up by the company for the launching of her book, she opened her laptop and googled the name “Phil A Baker”. That was the name she saw on the man’s backpack. 

 A shock-wave drained the expression on her face as she held her hand on her forehead. A lurching move across the bed to reach out for the clock on the bedside table. 14th of November,2007, she jumped off the bed and sat down on the foot of the bed.

  He was none other than one of the soldiers killed in the ambush in Iraq on the 13th of November, 2007, a day before she encountered him in the lounge.

  Lisa closed her eyes and memorised everything about the moment with the man. She bit her lip as she recalled the conversations.

  She thought of those few minutes with him and wished there was some way she could undo them. A feeling of uncertainty and anxiety about the outcome of due actions.

*The story depicts the conversation between two strangers at the airport waiting area. At certain angles, some lives are lucky and others they don’t look so well. One begins to learn when we’re willing to view the world from different perspectives.

As the saying goes, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”- Abraham Lincoln.

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