Come and Claim It
I had been gone for three months. In some ways, I had been gone for a lot longer than that.
It was a working trip, not a holiday, but it was still refreshing to get away. Removed to a foreign country, away from the the stifling redundancy and repetitiveness of daily routines. To be hundreds of miles removed from the catalog of personal uncertainties, with only a few simple goals and tasks to focus on each day. It brought a clarity of mind that I had not even realized I’d lost.
Shall I tell you that during that time of meetings and site visits, conference calls and power lunches, that I didn’t think of you? That I didn’t hear your voice in the background chatter of a crowded cafe? That I did not wake sometimes in the middle of the night and, my brain befuddled with the gray gauze of sleep, reach out across the sheets of that foreign bed in search of you, only to find an astonishing absence?
I could tell you these things, and more, and they would all be lies.
I am a coward, and always have been. I can offer neither reason nor excuse for it; it is simply a part of my nature. So I called you right before takeoff, when I knew you couldn’t answer and I would not have to worry about a reply. Called, and told your voicemail that I was coming home finally, that I needed a pick-up at the airport, that I wanted to see you.
Called, and told your voicemail that one thing which you’ve asked me to say, and I have been too afraid to tell you.
Meet me, I said, in the baggage claim. It seemed an appropriate locale.
It was a late flight, and only partially full, and yet it took the crew some time to offload our bags from the belly of the plane. We gathered, yawning and bedraggled, around the luggage carousel to wait. Piece by piece the bags appeared and vanished, as my fellow passangers retrieved them, until I was finally alone. I stood there, eyes steadfast on the rotating conveyor belt, waiting for my old red suitcase to drop down the incline.
I felt, more than heard, footsteps on the tile behind me, saw a blurred reflection in the burnished metal of the carousel machinery. I was too afraid to turn around.
But I hoped it would be you.