I notice the women first—not because they’re beautiful in a conventional sense, but because they’re striking in a way that’s difficult to grasp, a way that I’m compelled to work out on paper. They are three seemingly plain middle-aged women who are not well-dressed. They wear no make-up and have terrible hair, but they’re mesmerizing in their wholeheartedness, the way they speak and laugh, the way they use their hands and don’t care about their hair. They pull out socks they’ve bought and are greatly amused by them. They stretch them out on their hands and laugh. One puts hers on. The socks are toeless. She slips her sandals on and her badly-pedicured toes show. She wiggles them to the delight of her friends.
They’re companions to a man in a wheelchair who has the look of an Irish poet. His longish white hair’s a mess and he’s wearing a rumpled poet shirt, baggy poet pants, and a dreary poet jacket. He’s cranky and grumbles at the three women. They hand him his notebook and pen, and console themselves with chocolate. One of them opens her duty-free perfume and shares it with the others. “It’s very light,”she says. “Oh, yes,” the others coo. But I can smell it from15 feet away. They’re radiant with enthusiasm for the ordinary.
The poet doesn’t see it.
He concentrates on his notebook through thick glasses. Pen in hand, he writes nothing. He clicks the pen on. He sighs. Clicks it off. He finds no inspiration in the drab half-empty airport waiting gate, or his companions. Time passes. The three women chatter and smile. They haven’t spoken to him since he growled at them.
Bored children dash past, laughing. He’s not amused.
Now the poet pulls out a small computer. Types slowly. Frowns. Closes it.
Still no inspiration.
The young woman next to me dozes.
The Americans at the end of the row rearrange their papers and carry-ons.
Female airline workers at the gate try to look busy, but they really have nothing to do but wait—like the rest of us.
The young woman next to me wakes up and coughs. Not a good sign.
Other passengers talk, make use of free wifi, snack.
Stewardesses and pilots arrive. Good sign.
Finally, an airline assistant comes to push the poet’s wheelchair. She’s young and attractive so he attempts to be peasant (and relevant). The three women wave as he leaves. They’re relieved to be rid of him. They follow at a distance chattering and laughing.
The poet remains oblivious to his muses.