“I’ve never been inside.” Scotty looked up at the high ceilings as we walked out of the tunnel from the parking garage and into the terminal.
Scotty’d never left the city he was born in, let alone flown on an airplane.
“Over this way.” I led him to the security line.
“People are taking off their shoes,” he whispered.
“Shoes, belt, and anything metal goes through the x-ray machine. They’ll x-ray you too inside that little booth thing.”
“Why? Do they think I’m a terrorist?” He grinned at me.
“Not so loud.” I looked over at the TSA officer to see if he’d overheard. “Last time I was here some guy joked about them checking to make sure he didn’t have any weapons. They pulled him out of line and into one of those interrogation rooms over there.”
Scotty stayed quiet. They don’t trust police much in his neighborhood. He smiled nervously at the TSA officer waving him into the scanner, walked in and raised his arms, and stepped out the other side.
“Where’s our plane?” he asked, keeping his head down as he pulled his shoes back on.
“Probably still up in the air. You want something to eat?”
“No, I’m fine.” His rumbling stomach told me otherwise.
“Well I’m hungry. Come keep me company.” I walked into the food court and ordered two over-sized and over-priced slices of pizza. We sat, I said a brief prayer of thanks and then shoved the plate to him across the table after taking one of the slices for myself. Scotty wasn’t big on prayer but he picked up the slice and bit off half.
“Thanks,” he said around the pizza.
“I told you this trip is on me. That includes food. You said you were OK with that.”
“Yeah.” He took another bite and kept chewing. “I mean, thanks, but you didn’t have to bring me with you on your business trip.”
“I’m going anyway and you said you wanted to see my old university. Maybe you can transfer there after you finish up community college.”
“Maybe.” He took his third and last bite.
“I did community college before university too, remember. Nothing says you can’t.”
“Money, dude, it’s all about money.”
“Financial aid, dude, that’s how I got through. That and working. I know you know how to work.”
“That school got a strip club I can get a job at?”
I tossed a napkin across the table at him. “Maybe we can get you out of strip clubs once you transfer.”
We got up and headed toward the gate.
“I remember when I was in high school, way before 9/11.” I looked around the terminal. “It used to be you could go to an airport and hang out even if you weren’t flying anywhere, watch the planes take off and land, maybe talk to a pilot.”
“Doesn’t look like anybody’s here just to hang out today.”
“Can’t any more. Passengers only. They won’t let you through security without a ticket.” I dropped my bag to the floor. It made a louder thud than I’d intended.
“What’s up with you?” Scotty asked.
“You don’t look too happy.”
“I don’t like coming to airports any more. Everyone’s suspicious, half expecting something bad’s going to happen.”
“Like how they keep telling us to report a package left by itself. Lost count of how many times I heard that since we got here.”
“It’s not just feeling like everyone’s watching to see if you’re breaking one of the rules. Now you can’t do anything someone even remotely thinks is wrong. You know, back before 9/11 you’d actually see Muslims spread out prayer rugs in a terminal and pray toward Mecca, then fold up the rug, pull out their newspaper and drink their coffee like all the other people. I haven’t seen that happen in 13 years now. Thirteen years.”
“I thought you only wanted people to pray to Jesus anyway.”
“They should. Jesus is God. But people shouldn’t feel excluded in an airport, like they can’t do something normal like pray.”
“Dude, you’re the only one I know who thinks praying is normal.”
“Well it should be. Anyway, airports are one of those places where folks have to spend time around each other … but we treat this place like anyone who looks different is a suspect.”
“You mean people like me?” He looked around.
“Yeah, I do. Your skin’s not white so people look at you and wonder. That’s not the way God wants it to be.”
“Is it always about God with you?”
“Always.” I grinned. “I’ve told you, Scotty, there’s nothing that’s supposed to be not about God.”
We stood side by side looking out the window. “See those two planes landing on two different runways? They’re practically parallel to each other, but they won’t meet.”
“Now it’s about airplanes?”
“Scotty, people aren’t supposed to be like that. We’re supposed to be in the same spaces, with each other and around each other and sometimes even running into each other. God wants his family to be full of all kinds of people from all over the world who get to be together, like in an airport.”
“So it is about planes.”
“Planes, like geometry,” he said. “You’re saying airports are turning into places where people are on parallel planes that never intersect.”
“I pay attention in class.”
“How’s this for intersecting?” I reached my hand out to punch his shoulder but he ducked under it. Scotty’s not big on touch.
“Anyway,” I said, picking up my carry-on, “when we land we can drive by the college and I’ll introduce you to some of my old professors. They might want to intersect with you.”