Airplane travel is not fun. It’s barely tolerable. (Fill in all your own reasons here.) What I do love is listening to the stories I hear. Most of my life, people wanted to tell me their stories. Without knowing why, I love being the listener on airplanes, in cabs, in restaurants.
The Storied World
The Uber driver has a daughter.
She is 10
and he has heart disease.
It is gaining on him and he knows,
whispering fear and denial in equal measure.
Your trip total is $14.65, your are at your destination.
The man in the middle seat shows me
a mean and crude cartoon displayed on his tablet.
I look at it and back at him, appalled.
This is a story I do not want to hear.
He hisses his threat into my turned-away ear,
I am stuck between his angry face and the thick window.
We arrive at gate B31, and I run, breathless, to C18 to make the flight.
The smiling man shares my airport table.
He moved around a lot when he was a child
Our paths crossed in unlikely places, but at different times.
He is dyslexic but writes codes
that hold up satellites.
I return to my book, he nods and steps into the crowd.
The Uber driver is a woman, Senegalese.
Her husband lives in France.
They can’t afford to be together.
Apart for the last 12 years,
he insists she join him in France, so
she drives the Beltway till she can earn the right to fly.
Your trip total is $15.40. The hotel door slides open, waiting.
Up on the 5th floor an unlikely
lady bug paces on the desk.
Her story is a puzzle I cannot figure out.
I scoop her into my palm, take the elevator down,
walk into the cold rain of the night and set her on a swaying twig.
She tells me nothing. I am grateful for her silence.
A row of jars sits on my studio shelf.
Each holds a sliver of a life, told to a stranger
like a distant static crackle broadcast from a low-power station.
Alone, the jars blink red like radio towers
Secrets told, like code, into the night.
–Quinn McDonald travels to teach business writing. She listens to stories as she goes.