The book I’ve chosen for the plane ride
sits open on my lap
as the stranger on the plane
his life pulled leaf by leaf from his family tree.
His words come faltering and sputtering at first,
like water from a tap newly opened,
then rush out cool and even,
telling of a life that is a richness
of jobs held, wives loved, children raised.
He is going back to Mexico for the saints day
of the small pueblo where he was born.
The parade. The effigies. The life-sized santos
standing in their boats to tour the lake like kings.
I’ve been to this celebration; and as he speaks,
I sit like an honored guest beside him,
reading my memory as well
“Come,“ he tells me, giving me directions and a date.
I do not tell him I have been to that fiesta years ago.
“Perhaps,” I say, sliding his instructions to his family’s house
to form a bookmark in the book now closed upon my lap,
then go on, listening.
What were we born for
if it was not to read each other?
In the rush from the plane, that old man falls behind
and it is you I see as I come out into the world of Mexico,
leaving the plane ride, immigration and customs
in its place behind the swinging doors.
This flower that you give me is a mystery book.
I read it—stamen, pistil and corolla—
as well as the hand that holds it out to me
and then the warm embrace that you enfold me in.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Middle Seat.” It turns out that your neighbor on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?