On the way out, my seatmate was on my wavelength. It’s a quiet one. No chatter. She stuck in the ear buds as soon as she sat down. After an hour or so she pulled out her Mac Workbook and opened what looked like a dissertation on Detroit mosques. I tried reading over her shoulder but didn’t get much.
When all electronic devices were banned at final descent I leaned over and said, “I’m glad at least one person is trying to understand that faith instead of just hating it.” “That’s what I do,” she said, “I’m an interfaith counselor. I’m coming back from a camp where we put Israeli and Palestinian girls together for two weeks and they just talked.”
Wow, I said, good work. Keep it up. She told me she was afraid to read the mosque study in public these days. And she was worried that young people didn’t seem to be questioning much. They were way too herd-like for her liking, too ready to buy the conventional wisdom. She smiled little and furrowed a lot. She gave me hope.
On the way back my seatmate got worried when a huffing guy pulled her hanging bag out of the overhead and shoved his overstuffed in its place. She asked him if he would mind asking the attendant to hang the bag up instead of stuffing it back into the overhead. “Well, I’ll try,” he says. His tone was incredulous, like she had asked him to put the bag inside his mouth.
“Or you could put her bag back where it was and find another place for your bag,” I muttered just loud enough. The attendant hung up the bag and we all settled in, but not before he gave me a look I’m sure he reserved for street people asking for change.
I kept the headphones on until we were on the way down. She started up as soon as they came off. The bag had the dress she was wearing to her brother-in-law’s funeral. Within a few minutes I learned her cop husband had been shot to death by a guy now on death row writing books and giving interviews. During the trial she met and struck up a friendship with the lady that co-founded Justice For All, a victims’ rights organization. Her friend died in the Pan Am crash a few years back.
She told me a few horror stories about victims and their struggles. She was not a sad person despite having received more than her fair share of misery. She smiled and laughed a lot. But she was living her life from the past. Hard not to, I suppose, but it sure sounded like a choice she had no second thoughts about.
Two blondes, one looking forward, one looking back. One gave me hope, the other took it away.