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Beach Grit

Introspection: The marine at the airport

Michael Kocher

by Michael Kocher

In between sweeping up the detritus of suicide bombers, the writer ponders… 

I sit here in the airport and I’m forced to wonder if anyone here is even noticing me. I look around and I see these faces. Pretty faces, ugly faces, fat faces and thin faces, but everyone moves with a glazed-over look and you’re forced to wonder if they even have any idea what is happening around them or who the people are they are so casually dismissing with their non-caring eyes.

Through all of this you’re observing intimate moments. The father coming back from Afghanistan to his four young children, the joy so palpable, so real and so close to home that it reduces you to tears; the scorned lovers who manage to reclaim what they’ve lost for that one fleeting moment when she comes through the gate and sees the man she loved before the moment that she remembers, or maybe realises for the first time, how dead that man really is.

All of this, I sit here observing. They say we’re always in motion, always changing, always affecting everything around us. That it’s impossible to be a non-interfering observer, that the fundamental premise of science (that we can observe and learn without affecting or changing) is blatantly without merit or worth.

Yet I know that these people aren’t noticing me.

Why would they? I sit in a nondescript black chair with a nondescript laptop, a plain backpack,  generic clothing and my height is hidden by my slouch. There is nothing special here and the brains around me understand that. They absorb their surroundings, their quest for the gate, the flight, the adventure (but, more likely, the mundane business of life) and discard those things that are unimportant.

So the question is, am I truly in motion? Or is the world just moving around me? Am I affecting things or just being affected?

Then it happens… a child wanders by. A child who has not yet learned that it is not acceptable to stare. But stare this child does. A stare born of amazement with all that is occurring around them. A first trip the airport? Maybe not, but definitely the first they will remember. And what is this child, this little girl, doing? She stares at me as I stretch. Because children see all. They don’t have the fine-tuned apathy and discomfort that develops in our brains later on. They can’t control the human curiosity that should define us all. They want to see all, and know all, and hear and feel and drink and eat and learn and, though they don’t know what to call it, love all.

They want to experience everything. They have not yet been broken of that most amazing of things… the human spirit.

Then it all flows in at once. I try to be invisible again but it doesn’t work. Suddenly, I feel not just her eyes on me, but notice the quick and hurried glances of the people as they move by me, occasionally holding my return glance for a moment, as if to say, “Yes, even in this hurried modern age, we are still connected, we still belong, and we are still all human.”

And so I realize, as hard as I try to avoid it, I’m just as much in motion as those around me. I sit and I try to let my life pass me by, try to avoid making the decisions that need to be made, ignore the problems that I need to solve. All in the hopes that life will pass me by and I won’t need to make any decisions at all.

And, yet, all I really want to do is be a vulture. I want to sit here and feed off the happiness of these people, the people seeing their loved ones, the people marching towards a flight with a sense of hope and desire, a poignant sense of what is to come.

And, yet, they are all tinged with sadness. Because all of them, all of us, even me, leave a little bit behind in every airport, every plane, that they visit. I sit here still, the odours, images, tastes and sounds passing by me, and know that as much as I wish I wasn’t, and as hard as I try not be, I am indeed part of this chaotic motion, not an observer, taking a little from each experience I share, even if from a distance.

This is what it means to be human.

And it exists in every airport, in every country, in every city. And it’s fleeting, though, because it only exists in those moments.

Editor’s note: Of course, as fate would play these things, Michael Kocher is seriously ill and maybe he won’t be tap-dancing on those keys for long. Malignant tumours. He’s in chemo. If you want to help a brother out, as in America ain’t so great with picking up the tab for its dying vets, click right here.