Cigarette smoke and blasts of cold air. Trolleys rolling over the linoleum floor, baggage being dragged, children hollering, mechanical voices announcing over the PA system. Crowds standing on the other side of the glass barrier. Taxi cabs queuing up outside, eager families tumbling out and tumbling in with their luggage and their smiles. The cacophony of a hundred voices rising and falling around them.
Was she smiling? Most definitely not.
She was sitting in one of the hard plastic chairs. Arms crossed defiantly across her chest, face scrunched up in a scowl. Her schoolbag, now crammed with books she meant to read on the flight and an assortment of letters and diaries, was tucked away under her seat. She tried not looking at it. Because looking at it made the finality of her departure more painfully true. And departing was the last thing that she wanted to do at the moment.
Her parents were standing a few feet away, surrounded by friends and family and luggage, babbling away, their voices giddy with nervous anticipation. They were talking all at once, listening to once at particular, laughing at the odd joke or two, swapping advice and recipes. Someone suggested writing all that down. Someone else hunted for a pen. Then a new topic came up, the search was abandoned, and the babble began.
Someone, a friend of her father, said something about halal butchers, and her mother loudly proclaimed, 'Where we're going, everything is available.'
At which point the whole group laughed, and praises were sung in the name of The Land Where Everything is Possible, and Anything Can Happen.
More announcements were made over the PA system. A young couple, probably back from their honeymoon, pushed their trolley along, yawning sleepily. The man had his arm draped loosely around his wife's shoulders. They were being very pointedly stared at.
She found herself looking at the couple, too, but for entirely different reasons. She was quietly envying them for their indifference to the staring and the gawking and the pointing, at their ability to walk through the airport crowd and be surrounded by so many people and yet be in their own little world. She bitterly wished that she could get up and walk out, dragging her schoolbag behind her. For a glorious second she imagined the shocked expressions on her parents' faces, the chatter her departure would excite. Then that vision was replaced by the sight of her parents and their entourage. By the sight of the luggage that bore her family name.
Sighing, resigned, she pulled out her schoolbag, and dug around for the battered cell phone she'd bought secondhand with her pocket money. No missed calls. What a bummer.
Not to be helped, really. Her friends had all called the night before. They'd spoken of random things, of schoolwork and movies and plans for the summer. Her friendstactfully soavoided bringing up the topic of her leaving. As though by pretending that reality wasn't reality, they could tide over the unpleasantness. She was eternally grateful to them, for giving her those moments of suspension in disbelief. Those conversations had kept her going the last twenty four hours, had stemmed her disappointment and her tears to this point.
No more, though. She'd be boarding their plane in less than an hour. Reality was biting her hard.
She plugged in the earphone, and, on autopilot, dialed the number that she could probably recite in her sleep.
One ring, two rings, three rings. She tapped her foot against the cool tile floor. She jiggled her bag. And when a little girl, barely three years old, when running past her, shrieking gleefully at nothing in particular, she almost snapped, 'Shut the hell up, you brat!'
Just then a very familiar voice at the other end of the phone said, 'Still here?'
Just hearing her voice made the sun sunnier. She smiled, her first in the day, and said, 'Yes, unfortunately so. Boarding's in less than an hour.'
She stopped jiggling her back and shoved it back under her chair. 'I'm cranky. And pissed off. My parents are acting like this is the best thing that's ever happened to them. If you could only hear them right nowlaughing and joking like it's no big deal, like it's okay for them to drop everything and run off to someplace 3,000 miles away…'
'You'll be back next year, right? So I guess it's not all that bad.'
'Yeah, right.' She snorted incredulously. 'Don't tell me you seriously believe that.'
'Oh, I don't,' he agreed. 'I'm just trying to be optimistic. Someone's got to do it, you know.'
She could almost imagine his face breaking into a smile. Ah, damn boy knew it worked. Every time.
Her father chose that moment to holler, 'Better get moving, you know!'
She turned away from her father. 'Your optimism is going to be short-lived, I'm afraid. I think we're going to board now.'
'Oh indeed.' She got up, retrieved her bag. 'I guess this is goodbye, huh?'
'Well, you will call when you get there, right? And tell me how you're doing? And tell me when you get your own pc, okay? And…'
'I will. I promise.' She took a step towards her parents.
'And you'll be back next year, right?'
And, because she knew it was on both of their minds, she added, 'I'll miss you' in lieu of a goodbye.
And a single tearthe first of the dayrolled down her cheek, and splattered cleanly on the airport floor.
Some of you may think that I'm really just a crazy smart-arse with nothing better to do than write about hankies, while possessing soothsaying capabilities. I'll tell you something. I am all those things. And more. Specifically, I'm a devout of the hankie. As such, I find it my divine calling and obligation to enlighten those in the dark and encourage further those in the light.
At first sight, a hankie might appear to be nothing more than a small squared (not necessarily restricted to only this shape, though) sheet of clothing. These objects come in various textures of designs. Examples include printings of flowers, objects such as the sun and the moon, but generally the textures are either plain or checked. They can be laced, they can be not. They can be rough, and they can be soft. They can be pretty and they can be ugly. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they render services invaluable to the human kind.
Here are some of things you can do with the Almighty Hankie.
Sharp and edgy
The method for this deadly technique shall not be revealed. It belongs to the privileged devouts of the Hankie. If you're one, you already know. If you aren't, you don't need to.
An interesting fact for devouts and initiates of the Almighty Hankie is that King Richard II of England was the great inventor of the handkerchief, and his chief purpose was the ol' wipin' an' cleanin' of the nasal area. All hail King Richard II of England. The king is dead. Long live the king. Yada yada yada. Without that great king, so many of us would have been wandering this world, blindly searching for something to fill that hole in our hearts. The king is dead. Long live the king.
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