In an Airport Lounge
Aired April 10
A man sits, holding a young girl. He's quiet,
frazzled from a sleepless night; five years old,
she's restless, quirmy. "We're Eskimos," she
says suddenly, and shoves her bright face
against his, trying to rub noses. "This is how
Eskimos kiss, Daddy." She crawls into the
chair next to his, and picks softly at his scalp
and shoulders. "Now we're monkeys--I'm grooming
you," she says, nibbling at her fingers.
"I'm eating lice." People rushing past slow
down to look. Goddamn Discovery Channel, he
whispers quietly to himself, and pulls her
back onto his lap.
In less than half an hour, this man will hand
the girl over to flight attendants, who will
pin a note to her chest, and who will in several
hours give her back to her mother, in another
airport lounge. Even now, still feeling her
weight on his legs, it's as if she's gone
already--he imagines her plane curving swiftly
away from him, a dozen horizons away, a hundred.
In an ancient, unlearned gesture, now he hugs
the girl closer, and nuzzles her hair.
- by Michael Battram
"In an Airport Lounge" was first published in the Southern Indiana Review in 1995.