Extraordinary stories from everyday life on the edge of the world

Stories

the best thing about us is the people we know.
 

Alcindor // Norfolk, Virginia

An airport security guard talks about what makes a dream worth giving up.

I don't know if this name on her tag is her last or first. She's a little shorter than me, with blue horn-rimmed glasses and dangling earrings and rust-colored hair shorn against her head. She looks to the side as she beckons me forward, softening the authority of the gesture with impersonal deference.

The security line is backed up, and while I wait for the pat-down procedure (in lieu of going through the body scanner, which I eschew more from principle than from health concern), she opens the adjacent gate and lets half the people at the back of the line just cruise on through. I figure she'll do the same for me, but no...she lets them all pass, then guides me to the end of the baggage scanner belt and snaps on the blue latex gloves.

I'm particularly grateful to have recently learned about ASMR (thanks yet again, This American Life) so that I don't feel like a complete freak for...yes, okay, enjoying...her unpossessive exploration of my head, neck and shoulders. If nothing else, the sensation helps allay the competitive resentment I feel watching twenty other people breeze through the security check, inches closer now to making their flight on time.

As I pack up my carry-on items from the bins, she begins to sing.

And holy Moses.

"You have a beautiful voice," I tell her.

She grins.

"I know," she says.

"Do you sing?" I ask. "Like a night job?"

She gets a kind of faraway look.

"I was going to," she said. "When I was twelve, a German musician came to my school. She said she was going to take me with her and get me started."

She looks straight into my eyes; a sad smile is on her face.

"My mom died."