I admit, I noticed her coffee mug first. I don’t know why, it was a perfectly normal coffee mug. Perhaps it was the size of it (Good for water, I thought) or the way it slanted in the pouch of her backpack (Must be empty, I considered). These are the types of thoughts my mind created to keep me from tearing up. I didn’t want to think about leaving my crying preschooler again. I didn’t want to think about him sobbing and yelling, “I WANT TO GO WIFF YOU!” with his scratchy, sore throat in a fever fit. I didn’t want the Mommy Guilt to hijack my mind. “You are a shitty mother, a selfish mother, a fucking god-awful mother.” So instead, I looked at her coffee cup.
At some point I realized I was staring at her. The train whizzed through a tunnel and I saw my reflection. I was staring. I caught myself and looked up to see if she noticed. That’s when I saw her crying. She wiped her nose with a tissue and exhaled steadily. Her eyes were puffy. She made no eye-contact. She did not give any indication she knew I was watching her.
The girl across from me, though, did.
I caught her eye and smiled shyly. She nodded a small hello and we swayed with the train’s deceleration. I took a deep breath and walked toward the gate holding the plan to a trip I’ve waiting thirty years to take. Thirty years. Well beyond the moment I could imagine having a son bawling and clawing for me.
I had no idea how much that moment would hurt.
Just an hour or so earlier, I was dropped off by my family at Departures. My son is ill, most likely Strep, and isn’t feeling well. The thing he wants right now, more than anything in the world, is me. ME. The one person who is leaving for a week.
I let him get out of his car seat to give me a proper hug. He clung to me. He cried fat tears of anger and sadness. His nose ran until it landed on my shoulder. “I WANT TO GO WIFF YOU!! I WANT TO GO WIFF YOU!”
I looked up in desperation at my husband, my own tears stinging my eyes. I was helpless. “Maybe he can go to baggage drop off with me while you park? Maybe I can wait on this side if security isn’t horrible? Maybe I can call you in thirty minutes? Maybe..” I grasped at straws. “No,” he sighed, “It’s going to be the same whenever you go.” And like a bandaid, he took him from me, placed him in his car seat and started to pull away.
So it’s not that I was judging the lady with the tears on the train, or the man sipping a whisky at 10AM. In fact, to me, my world right now, I’ve been up since 4AM, it’s effectively late lunch time, my son just broke my heart and, although I’m not, I could really go for a single malt right about now.
Viva Las Amsterdam. It is time to board.
**update, Mr. Flinger bribed with some ice cream and they went to watch the trains together downtown. I’ve received confirmation that the boy is still alive and happy even though I am not physically there. THANK GOD. Now I’ll take that single malt.