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N O V E M B E R   1 9 9 9

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by Lloyd Schwartz

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9:31 in the departure lounge, nearly
deserted. Monday night -- everyone here

is a little too tired to be traveling
to another city. I search for an interesting face

behind the newspapers, and light on
a young man:

maybe 31? -- slim and well-dressed (that is,
dressed with some thought): his tan

jacket and pressed gray pants in muted
harmony with a pale-yellow shirt

open at the collar (no tie, though there may
have been one earlier).

They fit him elegantly, suit him, suit
his thin, sandy hair and pale,

fair skin. His rimless glasses suggest
seriousness, not fashion: a tone

confirmed by the forward gaze behind them --
through them.

He wears a touchingly simple
gold band on his finger, another example

of natural elegance -- his wife must
share his taste.

Is he on his way to her? Is she picking him up
at another small airport? Will they embrace

warmly, gracefully, when he arrives?
Or will she be up waiting for him at home, dinner

on the table? Or not -- already asleep
when he finally gets in, after her own long day.

Or is he on his way to yet another hotel,
after a week of hotels?

-- tired of hotels; while his attractive,
witty, attentive wife, with her eloquent cheekbones

and slightly sunken cheeks,
begins to show her own weariness of

spending so many nights alone.

They'll cost something, these nights.
Everything costs something when you have to make

your way through the world --
even if you're not new to the idea,

or just beginning
not to be new to it.

Lloyd Schwartz is the Frederick S. Troy Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He received the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1994, for articles on classical music that appeared in The Boston Phoenix.

Copyright © 1999 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; November 1999; Small Airport in Brazil; Volume 284, No. 5; page 98.

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