He looks at his boarding pass as he walks down the aisle of the airplane. ‘18E, damn middle seat again.’ he thinks to himself. ‘Terminal didn’t seem that full, maybe I’ll get lucky.’
12, 13, 14 ….. Spotting the first available overhead space, he shoves his laptop case into the bin and makes his way to his seat. He looks at the row of three seats and sees a man sitting in the window seat, already buckled in and fast asleep leaning against the window. Aisle seat is open so he sits and he hopes.
He watches people as they walk past, just waiting for someone to tell him that he is in their seat, forcing him to sit in the dreaded middle seat. But it never happens. They walk past, looking at their seat assignments and then up to the little placards above each row, then move on. One minute until cabin door is closing and no one coming down the aisle, he sighs a sense of relief that he will not have to sit in between two people for the entire two hour flight.
He latches his seat belt and takes out his book and starts to read. Reads a couple pages and then drifts into thought, same thoughts that he was having in the terminal. ‘Just so tired of this. Tired of everything. When is it going to change?’ He sets the book down as the flight attendants go through their usual routine about emergency exits, seat belts and oxygen masks.
He tries to focus on his book, but his eyes are too heavy. Deciding to put the book away and rest for a couple minutes, he turns the overhead light off, looks behind him to see if anyone is sitting there before reclining his seat, he leans his head back against the rest.
Seems like only minutes later, someone is tapping on his shoulder. The man in the window seat is looking at him “We need to get off, we’re here.”
“Already?” he replies, “wow, must have been more tired than I thought.”
He looks around the plane and sees that there is no one else there. Not sure what is going on, he turns back to the man by the window quizzically “Where is everyone?”
“They got off, which is what we need to do” the man replies.
“Sorry about that, didn’t mean to hold you up.” The man just shrugged as he shouldered past him to go down the aisle. He starts up the aisle, grabbing his laptop case and heads toward the front of the plane. Expecting to see an angry flight attendant or pilot at the front of the plane, there is no one. Walking up the endless walkway to get into the terminal, he is surprised how quiet it is.
Exiting the tunnel into the terminal, he is alone. Completely alone. No one at the ticket counter, nobody sitting in any of the gate areas waiting for flights. Nothing. ‘What the hell is going on?”
He makes his way toward baggage claim, looking for some sign of life, any sign. As he walks past the food court, he sees a solitary figure sitting at one of the tables, just staring at him. He starts to walk towards him to see if he can ask what is going on.
“Excuse me, sir?” The man just continues to stare at him.
“Sir? Can you tell me where everyone is?” he asks.
“Sit down, I’ve been waiting for you” the man kicks out a chair.
“Yeah….no thanks. I need to get home. Was just asking where everyone is”
“They’re gone. Now please sit down.” the stranger says..
“What do you mean they’re gone?” he asks, refusing to sit down.
“Sit your ass down and I will tell you!” the stranger says with such conviction that he seems to sit down without even thinking about it. “You waited too long. And now they are gone.”
“That’s impossible!” he demands, anger boiling up inside of him
“Really? Is it? Try to call Evelyn.”
“How do you know my wife’s name? Who the hell are you?” he yells.
“Try to call Evelyn.” the man says to him again calmly, no expression on his face.
He pulls out his phone and presses the phone button. Evelyn’s number will be right on the screen since it was the last number he dialed before he had to turn it off after boarding. But there is nothing on his screen. He checks the call log, but it is empty. ‘Stupid cheap ass phone’ he thinks as he tries to recall Evelyn’s actual number. Dialing, he presses the green phone icon to place the call, and hears an automated voice.
“We’re sorry, but the number that you are trying to reach is no longer in service, please check. . . .”
He ends the call and redials, making sure this time that he is entering the right number, must have got it wrong the first time. Same message. Tries three more times, same results.
“That’s strange, her number was working earlier.” he says aloud
The stranger reaches over and takes the phone out of his hands. “You won’t be needing this anymore,” and he gets up to walk away.
“Hey! What are you doing?”
The stranger stops, looks at him and says “You cannot go through life just saying that you are going to change. At some point you need to make a decision and do what you say that you are going to do. Making empty promises to yourself to change is not going to make a change. Everyone is tired of waiting, so now they are gone. You are on your own from here.”
“On my own? But. . . .what if I change? What if I do change? Will they come back?”
Stranger turns away as he says “Too Late.”
Left sitting on his own in an empty cafe, he sits and looks at his hands again, wondering what happened. ‘Now what?’ he says to himself. Just then something hard rams into the back of his left shoulder, and then continues to press against him, forcing him to shift to his right.
“Watch your elbows please.”
“Sorry about that, thought you heard me say that I was coming through.”
He looks up to see what was pushing against him.
“Sir, would you like something to drink? Coffee?Water?Soft Drink?”
“No….no thanks.” he looks over at the man in the window seat, still asleep leaning against the window. “Am I really too late?”