Window or aisle?
What do you need most? To see where you're going, where you've been, the world passing by? Or something solid to lean on? Or a bit more freedom to come and go?
The last one is in the exit row. Is that okay?
The exit row seems an odd place for weeping, but there I was, weeping in the exit row. It was a breach in the walls that keep me from feeling too much.
The man on my left
Married to a friend from jr. high
Father to two girls so stunning I didn't even have time to craft my adoration... it just came spilling out as he produced the photographs from his wallet.
Michael, who carries photos in his wallet.
Michael, sharing my flight home in the exit row, is on his way to Iraq.
I don't back away from these warnings, you know that. The fissures that cause others to reach for the mortar. I stand there, seeing them grow, wondering how much I can know before the damn is breached. It's that time between, so precious. When I finally start to feel, knowing that soon it will be too much. Precious moments.
Michael is a retired police officer. He worked in law enforcement for 30 years. He'd had enough. And then decided to go train military police in Iraq.
Michael didn't mind my questions. As he offered me his bread and collected the trash from my tray and made the flight attendants smile, he gave me a safe place to find out about peeing blood and the names of the neighborhoods in the green zone. The soldiers he was going for, "kids" he called them. How he'd be going back this time without infantry cover because they'd been pulled out. How he might leave early if things got too crazy. Dust storms. About answering that devil of a question "why?" when trying to teach a respect for human rights. I was so absorbed by our conversation I didn't notice the movie passing, the sun setting, and the walls crumbling. None of it mattered as I unearthed treasures in the exit row.
As I settled in to sleep, I watch in silence as that wall crumbles away, happy to see it go. Tears of pain mix with tears of joy. Feeling too much and being thankful for it.
As we were landing Michael imparted his father's words of wisdom to me. "The key to success is knowing when to make your exit." I hope he heeds them.