Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane Read Online (FREE)
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A problem: If you’re in an airport on a moving walkway, and a stranger glides by on the opposite walkway holding a book bag printed with a phrase you’ve been thinking about for months, how long will it take you to finish the sentence? You have no frequent flier miles, an unprecedented amount of paid time off work, and a new rolling suitcase named Grendel.
A best friend is someone who . . .
The book bag in question was blue canvas and the words were printed in white. I thought the sentence might finish on the other side, the side pressed against the woman’s ample hip, and that it might be important for me to figure out what it said. My eyes widened at the thought because at that precise moment I was on my way to visit a friend, Lindy, whom I hadn’t seen in several years. If I had a best friend, and I wasn’t sure that I did, I was on my way to see her.
I wish I could say I turned and ran in the wrong direction on the track in order to confront the woman and read the rest of her bag, but that would be cinematic. And by that I mean movies make the most of situations like this but life rarely does.
I looked over my shoulder just as my moving walkway came to an end, nearly tripping myself and the young mother behind me. I apologized, she swore at me from behind her stroller (the child was young, and, I hoped, deaf), and I rolled my suitcase off to the side, out of pedestrian traffic.
The air smelled of coffee, perfume, a little chlorine. There was something summery about it, which was at odds with the gray December sky visible through the airport skylights. The owner of the book bag was a heavyset woman in leggings and a Christmas sweater, and she wasn’t moving very fast. She had a cell phone in one hand, a coffee in the other, and was tipped slightly to the side in an effort to talk on the phone and keep the bag from sliding off her shoulder. I’m almost forty and fit, mostly from gardening, and would not have had trouble catching her.
I would have had trouble explaining I needed to read the other side of her bag. What if it turned out to be nothing but corporate swag? “A best friend is someone who . . . buys you Gardenite shears.”
Or a health advisory? “A best friend is someone who . . . gets a flu shot.”
While I was considering other, worse possibilities, a child stopped in front of me. “Excuse me,” she said solemnly, though large red bows held her hair up in very high pigtails. Most people smile at small children, but you really don’t have to. They appreciate seriousness.