An 18-year-old that needs help in the airport — honestly!
Iam going to Boston. Miriam and her family are sitting shivah. By some sort of dark luck, I just finished the bulk of everything yesterday, so really all that’s left is to hang the posters around the school — and that was going to be Nechami’s job anyway; I can barely tell left from right.
As my father hands me the ticket, I stare at the mumbo jumbo of little, black, ant-like letters on it, and I start to panic.
“Daddy — I can’t travel!” I remind him, feeling my heartbeat quicken.
My father starts, and then gives a long sigh. I am right — I won’t get past check-in, with the most of luck. I can’t read; I do not have good spatial orientation — I get lost in unfamiliar places. I am so bad at directions. I will have no idea where to go, what gate to take, where my flight is, where my seat is — it’s funny how the world is so unhelpful for people like me sometimes.
Now I am stranded. Miriam needs me. I need to be there. But my parents can’t take me, it’s Erev Pesach.
“I’ll just ask at the airport for help,” I suggest after a minute in thought. “Surely I’m not the first teenager who travels without knowing how to read….”
My father is drumming his fingers on the table, thinking. Then he goes into his study and locks the door. I stand in the hallway, holding tight to my little suitcase. My flight is in four hours. We need to leave now!
My father comes out, and a tired smile spreads across his face.
“My friend Yossel Kline is traveling to Boston on your flight. We will meet him at the airport.”
The whole drive to the airport my father did not stop admiring the Hashgachah pratis that made him remember that this Kline is traveling to Boston, and that he is traveling on my flight….
I just try to make myself small in my seat. An 18-year-old that needs help in the airport — honestly!
What will he think of me?
Once in the airport, I have no time to worry about what other people think of me. I am just trying to keep the panic from rising, seeing the amounts of people and flashing lights and noise… how will I ever manage anything in this place!
When we meet Yossel, I am more relieved than I thought I would be. I watch him like a hawk, not daring to lose him. We walk past the check-in, along winding corridors, up staircases and escalators, past security and the duty-free shops and finally the gate. It’s a whirlwind of unfamiliarity, and only when I am sitting in my seat on the airplane, after Yossel kindly directed me to it, that I let myself sigh in relief.
After we land, the same story repeats itself. I run after Yossel like my life depends on it. In a certain way, it does, because if I lost him, I would never find my way out of the airport. Yossel drives me to Miriam’s new address. It’s a modest looking house, with two floors, a small front garden, and a driveway. Much smaller than their house back home. The brown door is wide open, and people are walking in and out. I feel a bit lost as Yossel drives away, and I inch close and closer to the colored door, dragging my small wheelie behind me. Miriam’s little three-year-old sister, Mali, recognizes me first.
“Shulamis!” she calls. “Shulamis!” I go over to her and give her a hug.
“How are you?” I ask softly, and kick myself the minute the words leave my lips. That kid lost her brother, how do you think she is doing?
I stop the internal flogging right away; I don’t have the luxury of time to yell at myself now.
“Where is Miriam?” I ask.
“Come.” Mali pulls me into the house and along a dimly lit passageway, past the dining room, to the kitchen.
Miriam spots me immediately. Her eyes, red, swollen, and bloodshot, meet my own. I sit down next to her, and say nothing.
I remember that a person sitting shivah has to be the one to start a conversation, but after a few minutes of awkward silence, I begin anyway.
“I came,” I say. “I came just for you.”
Miriam smiles a tired smile. “Thank you,” she whispers. And then it is like she never left home in the first place, and we are still sitting together, like so many nights ago, before all this even happened.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 881)
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