He would not get the hint. The guy seated next to me on the plane. I used to love talking to people on plane rides; nowadays I cherish the time alone. I laid out lots of things to show how NOT into talking I felt. My journal. My computer. My Bubbi’s journal, an official looking black hard cover book. I even had headphones lying in full visibility that I did not need but was ready to use if so provoked.
I peeked a glance at the guy trying to start conversation. I knew better than to look him in the eye for that would have been the only window he needed. He looked like a very happy version of Marin Scorsese. Dark, interesting glasses that only enhanced his huge eyes. A warm grin seemingly unable to contain a sort of exuberance for life. He was well dressed, well maintained, and well-intentioned. And I was well on my way to loosing my patience at his attempts to engage me.
Finally, he took out a book. I silently sighed with relief and dove back into my writing. His book, alas, was huge. It took up the arm rest so the small Southwest Airline seats we found ourselves in had virtually no barrier. I couldn’t help but look down at the oversized picture from his book. And then I could no longer return my attention to my own.
Turns out, this book entitled THE LONG, LOST TREASURES ON THE MAP, was open to a place called Palestine. Secret nooks and crannies from a place I know by a different name lay in front of me. I was on the way home from performing my solo show which takes place in some part in this land he was investigating, this Palestine. I surrendered to the coincidence, and entered in full to the conversation.
Turns out, this man is a world traveler. Something I have always been intrigued by but too chicken to attempt. He never attended college, just left the states after High School for Kibbutz. Well, now he was really speaking my language. His Kibbutz was exactly near where my Dad first lived in Israel, in a small city named Affula. A city that my Dad said had only one ball which he stole so he could play more ball on his own.
He regaled me with stories from his travels, funded by his job as head something or other for Gucci. I finally asked him what made him want to travel so much, and his answer surprised me. “I grew up in Philadelphia. One very snowy evening, I was driving home, and I had almost hit a young boy. My brakes would not work on the ice. Somehow, I managed to miss the boy, but it spooked me. I left right after that.”
This happy man, who seemed to want for nothing save for maybe a constant ear for his stories, was perhaps nursing a wound for some 40 years. The “what if” moment of that near death incident was too much for my new travel companion.
I was mixed with feelings. Empathy, certainly. Relief for the life that was NOT lost, for both the boy, his family, and this man’s life. He was married, twice, two children, with whom he is very close. Has plenty of money to take his kids and grandkids on great trips of their own. No want for dates, as believe me I tried to set him up. And still, behind all these wondrous and lovely things in his present, the past events seem to daily carry some weight.
We are told to live in the moment. To let go of our pasts, to rid ourselves of expectations for the future. And yet, listening to this man, I wondered if his version too wasn’t Un-helpful. He has set up a whole life that he seems very energized by, in reaction to something from his past. He seems to have used that incident to springboard him into making a future of his own design.
I was grateful his book hit me. Grateful to have heard his story. I wish him health, happiness, safety and ease.
Practices this week! Wednesday at 9:15 am and Friday at 8:15 am. COME!