By: Brian Michael Barbeito
I lost my sweater. It was because I was helping people, some old folks who couldn’t carry their luggage. I couldn’t ‘not,’ help, seeing them struggling like that. I think I had put the sweater down on a chair, either my chair or the one beside me, with the idea of picking it up when I left. But, then I began assisting others, and must have forgotten it there. Or maybe someone lifted it, or mistook it for their own. No, that’s not right. I think I just left it there. Though people are often bad, I don’t think anyone took it just then anyhow.
You never know really though, do you?
After a long trip, I am back at the same place, liminal, the airport terminal. It’s sunny outside. Ft. Lauderdale. I grew up spending a lot of time in Dade and Broward County. The loudspeakers play a loop and part of the talk is about Human Trafficking. It says,
Human Trafficking is now a worldwide problem, and it is a problem for us. Please remember, to help us combat human trafficking. If you see something, say something.
Nobody wants to really help me find my sweater. I have to ask five workers where the lost and found is. Two don’t know. One doesn’t answer. And the other two point me in opposite directions! Somehow I find it, but it is closed. And the sign says you are supposed to call them first and they will look for it, and then arrange a meeting for you to get your item back, if indeed they have it of course. I can’t help but think,
At an airport? Aren’t airport visitors by nature almost completely transient? Shouldn’t it be simpler, given the context, the sense of urgency?
I go back and sit down, two whole terminals over. I know my sweater is gone, and have to let it go. I watch the window. I can see palm trees outside, their verdant leaves calm, even serene, just ‘being’ in a windless morning. I breathe in consciously. Looking around I see many things. The store that sells magazines and candy and headache medicine, plus a thousand other things besides. A vending machine blue that delivers ice cream. People. Many people. A man gives himself away by looking up furtively at other people. He conversely draws attention. Osho, the spiritual teacher, says that people doing wrong things, well, a certain darkness covers them whether they get caught by society or not. The man is pouring a beer while hiding it by a small duffel bag, into a plastic cup. But it is taking a long time, because his beer is frozen for some reason. There is no drinking where we are. I look on at other things. Luggage. Chairs. Someone goes past with a working dog. A group of stewardesses with their luggage, small carry-on pieces yet with little wheels affixed to the bottom. They were dark red, and two have silk or silk-like scarves around their necks and tucked into white blouses. Light from somewhere reflecting off bits of metal arm-rests and handles of luggage. Those distant trees outside foil themselves against the solid strait lines of architecture.
Human Trafficking is now a worldwide problem, and it is a problem for us. Please remember to combat…
I remember two things, one to do with human trafficking, which I had seen some time before. And one not, which I had witnessed recently.
First the first. I am working at a place that houses the homeless. I like them, and all marginalized groups. But that night two people walk in the front door that I don’t like. On one hand I am trained heavily in anti-oppression practice. There is no hierarchy of oppression, how not to judge, how to do all the work on yourself and examine even hidden beliefs about society and people. Yet, there is sometimes another, non-provable ‘thing’.
These two guys are, for lack of better words, bad news.
Its writ all over them.
Psychic low low low low vibration.
I have never seen either before. The group that went there was mostly a group, people that knew each other and the streets, shelters, surrounding towns and further cities. And if there was someone not known by myself or most others, the info on them, the extra insight one might withhold, could be gotten from one or some of the residents. There was a saying that info travelled amidst them faster than the internet. And people there could read people better than anywhere else in society. If you think about it, this skill was developed and honed, practiced, in order for survival. Who to trust. Who to not. They would cover one another, help one another, and this idea of covering and having someone’s best interest at heart, was the unseen nexus that held their world together.
But who were these two?
They reminded me of another two that had showed up in the middle of the night looking for a woman who was staying at an adjacent shelter, a family shelter, hiding from them. Those ones had had the same feeling and were verbally and almost physically aggressive. Of course we told them to get lost, and eventually though reluctantly, they did leave.
If you have room though, you have to register clients.
It takes one day before there is a complaint. A woman comes in and tells me that they tried to get her to go into a car. She didn’t know who else was in the car or know them. And the parking lot is dark, large. The surrounding area is a forest, and the long road off the hill leads to a dark one lane highway.
I bring them and warn them, question them, let them know I have my eye on them. They deny it.
The next day they lock a woman worker in the kitchen, though they stay on the outside. There are two doors on opposite ends of this industrial-grade kitchen.
I kick them out right away, with a police escort.
Then I remember the second memory, the more recent one. It’s spiritual, metaphysical, and mystical. On the highway leaving the airport I had glanced to my right and amidst the regular infrastructure and other, – trucks, cars, and buildings industrial and residential. There was a cemetery. Only for a few seconds could it be seen, like a remnant of a dream. But there was something tranquil and true about it, – the greenest of earth, and the handsome curt tombstones receiving the southern Floridian sun, the entire area adorned of a wondrous light. Flowers that souls lamenting had left, sometimes entire bouquets. I realized that we forget often, most of us, that that is where we will all go. Places like that. The ones underground surely traversed these very free-ways, thought about their problems and happiness both, considered what they would do for lunch, visited the pharmacy or the friend or whatever. It seemed that particular graveyard had an aura, an atmosphere that was peaceful beyond many things I had seen. Perhaps it was only because it was juxtaposed by the roads and highway and their business and busyness.
Or maybe not
I don’t know. But I felt for an instant, no instant, no time, but timelessness, and one not morbid, indicating fatality and death or evoking a pejorative sense of any sort, but rather a peacefulness and even fulfillment, a sacrosanct phenomenon clothing my spirit.
My mind clicks back to the present, to the terminal. I take a sip from my water bottle. The man hiding the beer has succeeded and is drinking his beer in the morning from an innocent looking cup. I stand and stretch and walk a short way to another store they have in the terminal. There are two types of Ft.Lauderdale hoodies and I notice that they are really good quality. I glance at the prices and am surprised that they are reasonable. I think for another moment. Then I gather one and stand in line to purchase it.
It can get cold on the plane.
It’s already feeling a bit colder in fact.
I need a covering.
And my other sweater, well yes, I think then that it’s gone forever.
Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian poet, writer, and photographer. Recent work appears at The Notre Dame Review. He is the author of Chalk Lines (Fowl Pox Press), and is at work on the written and visual narrative, Mosaics, Journeys through Landscapes Urban and Rural.
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