Sitting at a small wooden table in the airport food court, I become a source of amusement for a group of high school students wearing matching red polo shirts with USA stitched on their left breast. They giggle as they watch me, the old man, wipe down the dirty table with an antiseptic wipe and then remove a tin of sardines from my worn duffle bag. They eat their individually made fast food pizzas from the airport kiosk while I fork tiny, delicious oily fish into my mouth. Finally, I gather my detritus to throw into the waste bin. I walk past their table and pause. Their giggles fall silent.
“I was once like you,” I say to them collectively. “Now look at me.”
A boy laughs uncomfortably.
“I was especially like YOU, Ethan,” I say pointing to him. He doesn’t know I heard his friends mention his name when they all noisily sat near me. The boy becomes visibly shaken. There’s an uncomfortable silence for 3 seconds before I turn away and slowly walk to my gate.
I gave him a gift. An interesting & mysterious story to tell in the Fall when he returns to school.