A bumpy landing for a turbulent flight. The aircraft was dark and quiet, only my dry mouth and restless fingers showed any signs of life. This flight was a queer one – no other visible passengers, no smiling hostess and no deep baritone of the captain.
I walked on and on towards the baggage carousel, the weight of my limbs heavy on my feet. The conveyor belt was deathly still but a steady trickle of other passengers kept coming in. Were they on my flight? I don’t know. Were there any other flights landing at that ungodly time? I don’t know. The crowd kept increasing but we were surprisingly a well-behaved one – patient and still, all eyes towards the mouth of the belt.
All of a sudden, like a giant snake come to life, the belt yawned, grumbled and slithered. Pop! Bag One. Pop! Bag Two. One woman stepped forward and claimed her labelled bag. She waited patiently until her partner got his. Linking hands, they walked towards the exit and out into the world. The second pair did the same. The third. Then the fourth. All linking hands and strolling casually outside.
I saw a bag – a midnight blue – which had my name on it. But it wasn’t MY bag! My checked-in luggage was a buttery yellow and ominously absent. My eyes kept following the blue bag’s ride on the belt as I stood undecided. Just then, I noticed my yellow bag sliding in. Just then, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I glanced back without interest into smiling brown eyes of this guy.
“Sorry, I got late” he said. As if I had been expecting him. Was I? I was, wasn’t I?
Reaching out, he effortlessly picked up my yellow bag. He checked the name tag and cheerfully confirmed, “Yep! That’s mine.” I glanced at him warily. And then at his arms. He sure seemed strong enough to pick up my big bad bag so easily. I resumed my staring match with the blue one. I reached out once but pulled back at the last moment. Noticing my hesitation, he quietly added “I had checked this blue bag in, you know. I wasn’t sure if anyone would come forward to claim it.”
My heart gave a lurch and a start, but I still refused to look at him. I prepared to claim that blue bag as mine even though I still reserved doubts about my strength. As it came closer, even the belt sighed and slowed down helpfully. The guy, bless him, reached out and said, “Come on! I will help you. It really isn’t as heavy as it looks”
I grasped one handle. He grasped the other handle. Together, we heaved it off the belt and settled in on the floor.
“There now, was it that bad?”
Slowly I shook my head and offered a small smile, “No. I think I could get used to it”
“Good! You want to get out of here?”
“Yeah. I have been waiting a long time. A really long time.“
I picked the bag and comfortably adjusted it on my shoulder. Already it seemed lighter and friendlier. He was holding out his hand, smiling. For the first time, I noticed the twinkle in his eyes, the messy unkempt hair, and the dimple on his left cheek.
With no hesitation I linked my hands with his and we walked into the fresh air, the weight of our bags already forgotten in our laughter.
The sign at the belt blinked “EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE CLAIM”. The “E” had slipped and was hanging upside down. Perhaps someone should fix it.