Two months ago, I was at the airport with my family, awaiting our flight to New York, when a scuffle broke out at the gate. An old married couple had begun to argue about some nonsense.
“Why didn’t you pack it? You’re so stupid!” the old woman screeched in her Queens accent.
“I don’t where it is,” the old man mumbled, shuffling through their bags.
“You’re an idiot, you know that? A goddamn idiot,” the old lady said.
“What the hell’s the matter wit-chu?” is the best the old man could come up with.
The wife definitely had the upper hand. She carried on, berating him in front of all the weary travelers, who stopped watching CNN to witness the disaster that was playing out right in front of us. You can’t beat live theater.
Christ, I thought. If I was single and in my twenties, I would vow right then and there to never get married. They were worse than all those old couples that go out to eat, silently staring at each other with fish eyes and pursed lips. While these folks continued on like the Costanzas, I kept looking over my shoulder for George and Jerry to show up.
“Welcome to New York,” I said to my son, who was slack jawed in horror. “They have to go back to the ward sometime.”
To our great dismay, they were seated on opposite aisle seats in front of us on the plane. We waited for the commotion. We waited for the berating. We waited for the nightmare. Instead, as the plane began to take off, the husband held out his hand to his wife. She took it, shaking.
“You’re okay,” he mouthed. “I love you.”
She nodded with fright.
For the rest of the flight, they shared food and magazines, spoke softly, smiled, and every now and then when some turbulence happened, he held her hand, squeezed it gently, and looked deep into her eyes, assuring her she was okay.
Every time he reached for her hand, I had to look away. My repulsion had turned into a well of emotion, punched with the reminder not to rush to judgment, shamed to have written them off as one dimensional characters when I know there is no such thing, and grateful to be reminded that we are all capable of as much beauty as we are ugliness – every one of us.