Sitting at the gate; evening sun shining through the glass window overlooking the tarmac; awaiting my final flight home.
Overpriced shops abound. I noticed some pashmina scarves hanging on a display rack; $18 a piece. Just a few short days ago I bought ten of these very same scarves from an Afghan man at the Bazaar for twenty American dollars; a few hundred miles from the goats that the fibre was sourced from. I chuckle and shake my head at international commerce.
Sitting in my seat; awaiting the call to board; I meet two white American couples. One couple with two adopted Chinese daughters around three years old.
The two wives and one of the husbands amuse the children. I ask the second man if he wants to see some pictures.
I start off with photos that I’d taken of my life on the base; my tent, my room, my friends.
Then I show him a video, filmed from a Humvee, of an IED exploding between two vehicles in a convoy.
He gasps; visibly shaken.
“That’s what we ask our guys to walk into.” I say.
I show him another video; filmed by terrorists. This video is of a masked man firing a mortar while shouting the takbir. He drops a dud into the mortar tube and blows himself up by accident.
I laugh and tell the man, “It’s funny to watch those bastards fuck up.”
We board; take off; and make our way home in the middle of the night.
A kind friend; whom I’ve known for many years; picks me up at the airport and takes me back to her house so that I can surprise my family the next day.
We smoke some grass and I start going through my bags. I give her and her room mate first grab at the pashminas.
They retire to bed; I crash on the couch without much hesitation.
I wake up the next morning and it’s a beautiful day. Both my friends are at work; so I take a long shower then step outside for a cigarette. Barefoot I sit on the stoop; passionately puffing my Marlboro and letting the fresh grass work it’s way between my toes and under my feet.
I never knew one could miss grass so much.
I’m amazed at the cars racing past. They’re not going all that fast; but I was used to a 15 km/h speed limit. Speed is relative.
Later that day, my friend picks me up and we head into the community to pick up her room mate from the eye doctors office she worked at. As I wait in the car; I get a hankering for caffeine, so I head to the Tim Hortons on the other side of the parking lot.
Much to my synergistic amazement, surprise and joy; a friend I’d grown up with worked at the coffee shop. A friend that I had no idea lived in the area (two hours from where we grew up) and whom I had no idea worked at any coffee shop, let alone this one.
We were both visibly startled but it was the good kind of startled. The kind of startled that one experiences when one of the first people they encounter upon return from a war is an old childhood friend.
I order my sandwich, bagel and coffee; and she takes her break so we can sit out back of the coffee shop and talk.
Very full circle.
Meanwhile; my two other friends were searching the parking lot for me. The plan was to drive me two hours to our home town to surprise my family. I happened upon another old friend and got caught up in old times.
It’s chance encounters like this that make me believe in some sort of divine invisible hand directing some of what we experience. How was it that this old friend happened to work in the same shopping plaza as a completely unrelated old friend; in a city lying two hours from our home town? How was it that she happened to have the morning shift that day? How was it that I chose to go to that coffee shop instead of the many we’d passed on the way to where we were; or the many we’d pass on our journey home? Too many coincidences to be anything but divinely inspired.
If it was coincidence; how many times do we casually enter the radius of someone we once knew and have no idea?