This was an interesting story for me to re-read right now. It's another I barely remember writing but on re-reading it I like it. It could use polishing but over all I like it. I'm wondering if I wrote it targeted for somebody I knew back then. If so I can't remember who. It was written in early December of 1999 for the AOL short story contest and the theme that week was "Wisdom".
Being a couple of days before Thanksgiving I was not surprised that the airport was packed so I was happy just to find a seat. It didn't look like the people on either side would want to talk which was fine with me since I was beat after a long road trip. It wasn't long though until I heard the lady sitting next to me sobbing quietly. Looking over, not really wanting to get involved I saw that she looked like she had been crying quite a bit.
She looked over at me and I must have let my aggravation show because she dabbed her eyes and tried to smile and said, "I'm sorry, I'll try to be quiet".
Instantly I felt like a real heel and found myself saying, "Don't be silly, it's not your fault, is there anything it would help to talk about?"
"I don't know that there is anything to talk about. I'm just so fed up with life that I can't take it anymore," she sobbed, "I'm leaving my husband and my kids and you probably think that makes me a terrible person."
"What happened? Have you told him or are you just leaving?"
"I've threatened to leave for months now and he doesn't take me seriously. He barely notices I'm there. He just works all the time and when he does come home he plays with the kids and then when we have time alone he falls asleep. I am stuck with them all damn day and he comes home and does whatever they want and brings them things and I'm just sick of being the bad guy all the time."
"I'm going to start over and make a life for myself. I don't have one now I just have this existence where I wait on my husband and my kids and do PTA and crap like that. I want to live for myself. I want somebody to notice me and love me like I want to be loved. I want to find a little romance maybe. I want to feel like a woman."
She took more tissues from her purse and blew her nose and I was trying to think of just what to say when I heard a voice behind us and turning found it was a man sitting in the seats to our back turned around saying, "Honey I know just how you feel but I can assure you that you will regret it in later years."
"How can you be so damned sure? You don't live the hell I do" She said to him. As she talked I took a good look at him. He was I'd guess 60 or so with solid gray hair dressed in a suit. If I'd had to pick one word to describe him I'd have picked distinguished.
"Will you listen to me for a few minutes Ma'am and then decide if I know what I'm talking about or not. Maybe your situation is different, let me tell you my story and you decide ok?
She, obviously with reluctance and resignation, agreed to hear him out. Then he began to talk.
"I was about your age and I just sort of woke up one day and felt like I was getting nowhere. I had a house, a wife, two kids and a job I hated. I saw no way to change things and I got really depressed. I wanted to quit my job and try something else but my wife was afraid of what might happen if it didn't work. I got more and more bitter until I wasn't even being a good daddy."
"That's when like you I said I was going to chuck it all and start over. I'd gotten so bad my wife never even looked for me I don't think, just went straight to a lawyer who tracked me down to serve the papers."
"Over the years I did find a job I like and that I'm very good at. To look at me you'd think I was very successful. All that's on the outside though. I never found another woman like my wife. I guess I was afraid to try again. And then there were the kids. I got to thinking of them growing up without me. I tried to see them once but I'd given them up and they and their mom resented that and do to this day. I did what I could getting what clippings of them I could from the local newspaper and all but it's not the same. Those kids grew up without me, resenting me and I found out I missed them so bad."
I also learned that sooner or later all life is the same routine. I still had a job and the bills to pay and the house to fix up and the car to keep running only I no longer had somebody to talk to about it or kids to take pleasure in. When you give up all that you give up a piece of yourself honey. I don't know if you think this applies to you or not but if I can give you a bit of the wisdom of my experience then I'm happy."
The man finished his story and without waiting her to say anything got up and walked away and was swallowed by the crowd. I don't know what she thought, she was crying more than ever. Our plane was called and as I was about to board I saw her still sitting there and then heard a commotion and saw a young man come running down the concourse. She stood and he pulled her into his arms and they cried together. I have to think that maybe everything was ok with her since she never got on the plane.