Written By: Elizabeth
May 8, 2014
"One, two, three. One, two, three. You can do this. I either do this, or I lose my job." I grumble nodding to myself. Chanting the words my therapist and boss had planted in my head. My shaking hands and lead feet scream that I can't. Even my voice dies three times before I manage to stop a cab. . . by standing right in front of it. It screeches to a stop, the driver cursing at me, I slide in and hand him my fare. Goosebumps rising as I do so. "A-airport. . ." no, my voice won't do at all. I cough clearing my throat while putting a hand over my beating chest. "Airport, please." I ask in a more assertive tone. Growing more and more angry with myself, I fold one hand over the other to try to make it stop shaking. Gripping until my fingers are red and my knuckles are white, I begin chewing the inner part of my lip, a habit I had learned easily from my Mother when I was young. I look down to the golden band, interlaced with diamond taking in a deep breath. The driver looks in his mirror three times, before clearing his throat.
"Much of a flier?" He asks stopping at a red light. I jump at his question before taking a deep breath and shaking my head.
"Not much." I reply smiling politely at him. I wasn't much of a talker, either. In fact, I had it troubling to speak at all.
"Ya look like you've seen hell." He says an off the cuff remark that makes me hold my breath.
Have I seen hell? It surely was a hell, at first I didn't notice anything. Sipping my coffee at a newsstand, I had no acknowledgement of the plane. Then. . .Boom. The crash came from the left of me. The impact making my ears ring as people started to scream, take pictures. I didn't move until someone decided to knock me over causing my coffee to spill on the newspaper I was reading. Causing my skin on my leg to rip open on a nail laying on the ground. A scar that would be a remembrance of that day. My head had risen to see people with horror written across their face. A streak of dust and smoke and god knows what else flying into the air looking like clouds. My life ended there. My heart sank in my chest in that instance and broke. Shattering into millions of tiny pieces. I remember mouthing Stephen's name. . .but never remember hearing anything.
"Miss…?" I blink as I am jumped back into reality by the man driving the taxi. "You okay..?"
"Huh? Yeah.. I'm fine." I smile politely nodding swallowing back the truth. I wasn't okay, but he was a stranger and wouldn't want to hear a sob story. I even get tired of it.
"You know, I've seen a lot of people get that distant look." He begins, taking a left. "I didn't know this Stephen guy but whatever happened to him, I'm sorry." The way he said this was awkward, like he wasn't able to breach the topic in a relaxed way. Nevertheless, he wanted to show me he understood. I could tell that much. It eased me a little and I let out a breath, nodding.
"I said his name out loud?" I ask, he nods. I let the silence linger before opening my mouth. "Distant look..?"
"Yeah, a lot of the boys on our Base got those looks," He says before backtracking. "Sorry. That slipped out. I was in Afghanistan." He clears his throat uncomfortably. A twinge hit my heart.
"Oh...." I whisper my mouth becoming dry.
"I entered in 2001. . . got shot in the leg so I had to come back." He presses his lips together, his eyes becoming sad.
"Can I ask. . ." I trail off before stopping myself. "No, never mind."
"Why I joined?" He asks looking in the mirror at me, I nod. "We live in New York. I'll give you three guesses."
"I'd rather not say out loud." I say gripping the side of my seat. He chuckles coldly, I could feel the ice in his voice cooling the warm day quickly.
"My little sister," He says "She was in the plane. I know you're scared so I shouldn't talk about it. Huh."
"If you said nothing, I would be thinking of it." I say with a warm, sad smile. "Stephen. He was in the building. I was supposed to be there. . . in the building . . . I was about to surprise him when it hit." I say this to a complete stranger that I don't even know. Saying these things out loud, though, gave me some ease. This person lost someone dear to him. For that, I can only say 'I'm sorry'. I don't know what he went through. Everyone's different. But, even so, to know I'm not alone is oddly welcoming. He stops in front of the airport.
"You'll be fine," He says putting the car in neutral before turning to me. He searches my eyes with his warm hazel ones. For an instance, I could feel a warm blanket being wrapped around me. Securing me. I felt safe."You have people looking over you." He takes my hand and puts a card in it. I look down, examining the a man in a brown robe, an orb of light hanging behind his head, he was holding a child in his arms. Underneath, golden cursive letters were etched in. Saint Anthony, the Patron of Lost Things. My eyes soften.
"I'm…not really religious." I whispers trying to hand it back. He pushes my hand back, neglecting the offer.
"You don't have to be," He smiles. "But it is something to grip when you get scared." I nod smiling.
"Thank you very much." I reply stepping out with my bags. He gets out, offering a hand. I take it into mine, shaking it.
"It's been a pleasure." He smiles. That warm feeling comes crashing down again.
"Goodbye." I nod turning and walking away. At the door to the airport, I turn back to wave goodbye once more.