Incident at Lambert Field

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As I wait by the baggage carousel,
a man in a tight shell necklace
paces back and forth
looking somehow a little odd.
I quickly scan for my bag,
then return my gaze to the room.

Two women and a white-haired man
approach the necklace guy.
“I need to be back by 7:50,” he says
to their dinner invitation, I suppose.
As I turn toward the carousel again,
a wild shriek rises behind me.

The man with the shell necklace
is holding a phone to his ear,
screaming “My God! No! No!”
The other three huddle around,
cradling him while he sobs.

As the carousel goes around
here in this limbo of waiting,
the hidden grief of the world
has gushed up a few feet away.
All who hear the man’s cries
are staring while trying not to.

I glance at a woman nearby, raising
my arms and shoulders in question,
but she only mirrors my gesture.
I long to embrace the screamer
even while wishing him privacy.

He’s still keening as the two ladies
trundle him into a wheelchair
and roll him down the hall.
The white-haired man remains.
I ask him what’s going on.

“My son’s son got killed!
A beach accident in Santa Cruz.
He’d just graduated high school.”

The grandpa looks off in the distance,
showing no emotion.
I try to give him a hug,
but only end up patting
one of his shoulder blades.

The two ladies return
with another wheelchair for him.
I’m left alone, feeling helpless.

The woman with whom I’d connected
earlier is still nearby, and now
at the very same instant
our eyes rise and meet.
We walk to each other, embrace,
and hold on for dear life.

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