Thursday, November 5, 2015

A seat in the fox's pub

From my travel journal:

I land at Washington's Dulles airport late, on a little prop plane that is not the one I was scheduled to take, after one of the bumpiest rides I have ever experienced outside a war zone. 
    I have time before my connecting flight, and I am starving. The only halfway decent sit-down restaurant on my concourse is jam-packed. But wait: a woman is getting up from the bar. A young man helps her to disentangle her luggage. I thank her for providing me with a seat at the right moment. "You'll enjoy this young man," she tells me.
    The young man at the bar is behaving oddly, hopping back and forth between the now vacant seat and the one he was sitting on. He finally decides I may have his previous seat. Clearly there is going to be some kind of engagement here. His baby-blue eyes float up out of a pale and desperate face. "I know you are an elder." 
    He asks me to guess his age. I do. Now he is almost beseeching. "What can you tell me about life?"
    "Never leave home without your sense of humor."
    "I know. But I get so intense, so aggressive. Like, if someone bumps the back of my seat -" he bumps the back of my seat to make his point ["-I want to get up and get in that guy's face."
     "I'll tell you something else I have learned about life," I remark after he hits the back of my seat a second time. "We always have the freedom to choose our attitude."
     He stops banging my seat. "Oh my God, you're right. It's amazing you just sit down next to me and say that."
     He pushes his face close to mine as if he needs to be petted. I am trying to think who he reminds me of. Got it. He resembles Smeagol, the Gollem in Lord of the Rings. The absence of hair on his head is the least notable point of resemblance.
     He wants something from me I can't yet fathom.
     But as he goes on talking, questioning, I begin to sense its shape. He talks about his military Virginia family, his estrangement from his dad. It is clear this has left a deep wound. My guess is that his father has not been able to accept that his son is gay.
     I tell him that, I too, come from a military family and that I was estranged from my father until three years before his death, when we became the best of friends. I tell the young man that if it were my life, I would make it my game to make all well with my dad while he is still in the world.
    "You're giving me goosebumps." He shows me. His whole arm is chicken skin.
    "Truth comes with goosebumps."   

    He is crying now. "You come into the bar, you take a seat, and you tell me the most important things I've ever been told. I asked for an elder, and you came."
     "Here's something else I've learned. The world speaks to us through coincidence and chance encounters. It's a kind of magic."
     "Is that what you are? A magician? You got me crying at the bar for chrissake."

    "Well that lady who gave me her seat did give you a good review."
    He wants to pay for my burger and beer. Of course I won't let him. He asks for a hug. I do give him that. 

    As usual, when plans get scrambled the Trickster comes into play. There is more than what we understand as chance going on on in chance encounters. And sometimes they take place for the benefit of someone else. 


Mr Fox wants me to add that this scene was played out in a pub called The Firkin and Fox. Of course.

A version of this story appears in my new book Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity. Published by New World Library.

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