Bienvenido

Checking in
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Aedan stood in near silence at the door, only the distant rumbling of waves breaking on the shore and squeals of gulls broke the silence yet didn’t break the calm.  He knocked at the door again but with a bit more effort this time.

“Ya voy, ya voy!” came a feminine voice from behind the door even as the door cracked open to the extent that the attached chain would permit it. Brown eyes at chest height to him peered out the door at Aedan.

“Yo soy Aedan Charron” he almost got out before the door closed again.  There was the fiddling of metal on metal then the door opened wide.

“Of course you are!”  The woman, Aedan guessed to be in her mid 50s blurted out as she stepped out the door, looked both ways up and down the street then ushered Aedan in. She reattached the lock after he and his suitcase were inside.

“We didn’t think you were ever going to make it.” she went on in perfect english with only a subtle Spanish accent. “You must be beat. Would you like some coffee?  I just put the warter on the stove.”

“No…no thank you. I’d really like to get unpacked and cleaned up first.”

Aedan hadn’t known what to expect from his sponsors. The entire arrangement was made through the travel agency.  That her english was so good was a plus. Aedan hadn’t practiced Spanish since high school though he tried to refresh a bit when it became clear that he would spend is vacation in Cuba.

“Of course.” She said  “Take your time, I’ll make more if you wish, later.  Your room is at the top of the stairs“ She looked back over her shoulder and called “Juan! Ven aca!”

“This is my son, he will take your bag for you.” A boy of about twelve years of age came from the other room and she went on in rapid Spanish that Aedan wasn’t able to keep up with but as the boy reached for his bag.

“That’s ok, I can take my own bag.” He smiled at the boy with his most sincere “gracias” but didn’t let go of the handle.

Juan looked at his mom for guidance which she gave. He ran off, seemingly pleased that he wasn’t needed.

“Aqui, this way, then.”  She started up the stairs giving Aedan no choice but to follow.

The staircase was narrow and winding. On more than one occasion, Aedan struggled to turn the corner without his suitcase hitting the wall.  On the third floor, the woman opened the lone door at the top of the stairs, entered the room and after a quick glance around invited Aedan in.

“I hope you find everything to your liking. After you get settled in, come on down for some delicious Cuban coffee and tell me about your plans. There is a lot to see here and I can help you find it all.”

Aedan set the suitcase down in the first empty corner he saw in the small room then thanked and assured her he would be down after bit.  When she left the room and closed the door behind her, Aedan breathed a sigh of relief, truly alone for the first time in over 24 hours.

The room wasn’t large but it was comfortable. The bathroom reminded him of the classic cars on the street. A little worn but well tended to and clean. The main room was simple but clean with a double bed, night stands on either side, a small table and chair in the corner with two more chairs and table on the opposite side. Through french doors at the far end, Aedan could see the balcony outside.

Pulling the french doors wide open was like removing the entire wall from the room and outside that wall was a perfect view of the beach across the street. He was happy to see a chair and table set out here as he expected to find himself there many times.

Closing the french doors behind him, Aedan put his suitcase on the bed, opened it and began unpacking. He found a small closet adjacent to the bathroom and hung the few things he brought needing to be hung – including the jacket he was still wearing.  He finished unpacking then stripped down to nothing as he opened the water valve to take a shower.

The hot water wasn’t.  It was a bit above room temperature but not much.  This made for a shorter shower than Aedan was used to but it still felt good. Once he stepped out and began to dry off, the feeling of relaxation really moved in. The thoughts of laying on the bed if only for an hour were tempting. It had been a tumultuous day with little sleep and now he was well into the next. Maybe he would but first, he had to try to call Cathy again.

As assured by the travel agent, when Aedan looked at his phone, he did have a signal sufficient to make his phone call. It would be a roaming charge but that was better than nothing at all. Hoping to increase the signal a bit, he moved onto the balcony. Cathy picked up on the third ring. She was barely up at 6:15 on a Saturday morning but she had been anticipating his call since she had missed attempt to call her.

“Aedan, he is very nervous and wouldn’t tell me where you should meet him.” She described the conversation with his contact in Havana.

“Well, I’m here now. He knows where I am staying, right?”

“No, he didn’t want to know.  He insisted that I didn’t tell him anything. He has a plan, though.”

Aedan nodded to himself “of course he does…and what is his plan?”

“There is a store in Havana. In the window is a hat that he wants you to buy and wear. He said he’ll find you.”

Aedan didn’t like the idea “A hat? Like a flag for all to see?”

“Yes..but he insisted it must be that hat and nothing else from the store.” She responded then gave him the address.

They talked for a few more moments but Aedan was wary of saying much more in case anyone else was listening.  When the conversation was done, he moved back inside and stretched out on the bed. It was comfortable. Most anything would have felt comfortable right then. He closed his eyes and thought to himself that a quick nap was in order.

Havana

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Aedan didn’t know what was happening but he knew he wasn’t going to miss his flight after waiting for so long. He stared at his reflection in the glass while waiting for boarding to begin for his section. As hard as he stared, the reflection didn’t change and nobody around him acted as if anything were wrong.

When his section was called, he fell into line with everybody else. The relief that the plane would finally leave was contagious. That was the topic of all the conversation around him. Nobody was talking or even paying any attention to him. When he was asked for his ticket and I.D., there was a momentary panic as he pulled out his drivers license and first looked at it himself.  It was him..the ‘him’ he was now. Surely this was a dream he thought as he handed the clerk his license. She quickly looked at the ID and the boarding pass, welcomed him aboard as she returned it and moved to the next in line.

The three hour flight was uneventful. Aedan sat beside the window and stared thoughtfully into the darkened sky until he dozed off. He woke just as the plane began its descent into Miami. It was still dark and with the cabin lights on he looked at his reflection in the porthole glass expecting to have woken from a dream. It was still the same face. The dream continued.

At a time in his life when Aedan was as old as he now appeared to be, he frequently had lucid dreams. He knew what to look for. He counted his fingers repeatedly expecting one to go missing. He read the title of the magazine shoved into the seat pocket before him, looked away and glanced back.  It read the same. He had all his fingers. Nothing told him he was dreaming. The other possibilities were that he were insane – even temporarily – or that somehow this was reality. Either way, it was his reality now.

The layover in Miami was three hours long. Aedan was growing into his skin though he expected at any moment a light would flash and all of this would have been some strange dream. Searching for an explanation he remembered that many years ago, in a place far, far away, he had been given a drug to stop aging. It is something he never shared with anybody since returning but perhaps this was a side effect of that. As amazing as that might sound, he knew it to be true and the idea that this were somehow connected made sense. It made acceptance much easier. Maybe the appearance of Louise was also connected. He would look for a new doctor after his vacation and get a complete physical.

Aedan convinced himself that he had found the explanation to one of the many strange occurrences of the previous day. It was too much for one man on one day. He had two weeks of vacation ahead of him to enjoy and sort this all out and he was going to enjoy it.

 

With the new found acceptance of his current predicament, Aedan also remembered that he had forgotten to call his associate, Cathy, before he boarded his flight to Miami. She was to make arrangements to reschedule a meeting with a potential witness to a case he was trying. The man was getting cold feet about meeting because of the delay in Aedan’s flight. The planned rendevous with him was the primary reason for Aedan’s choice of Havana for a vacation. It was the reason his supervisor didn’t blink an eye when Aedan notified him that he would stick with his vacation plans despite the huge delay.

It was after 9pm back in Seattle but his next chance to call would be after midnight and he wasn’t even sure if he could get a connection with his cell after he arrived. Aedan called twice and got her voicemail twice. The second time he left a message and then texted her.

“I’m in Miami. We begin boarding in 90 minutes. Call me”

The message was short and to the point as Cathy preferred. She was extremely punctual so he knew that if she got the message, she would call.

An hour later and Cathy hadn’t called. Aedan dialed her number once more but again got her voicemail just as if was announced that boarding of his flight would begin in 5 minutes.

With his ID all in line, the flight to Havana went smoothly. In Havana, the custom’s officials took their time inspecting Aedan’s papers. A phone call was made while he waited and the man didn’t look especially pleased when he hung up the phone but he returned the passport and visa and motioned for Aedan to proceed.

In Havana, the custom’s officials took their time inspecting Aedan’s papers. A phone call was made while he waited and the man didn’t look especially pleased when he hung up the phone but he returned the passport and visa and motioned for Aedan to proceed.

The sun was just peeking above the horizon as Aedan left the airport with his suitcase in hand.  He flagged down the first taxi he saw which was a bright yellow, three wheeled rickshaw commonly called a cocotaxi. In his best Spanish, he gave the address that he was given by the travel agent and after determining that his suitcase best fit standing on end before the seat beside him, they were off.

The ride from the airport was far from uneventful. Though there wasn’t much traffic at this time of the morning, the cocotaxi driver seemed to be doing his best to make it exciting. As he sped and swerved unnecessarily, Aedan soon caught the driver’s grinning eyes looking back at him in the small rear view mirror. They laughed together and when he arrived safely at the address that he would spend the next two weeks at, he tipped the driver sufficiently to hopefully ensure that he would also survive the next ride if he ever got the same driver.

Once the taxi had taken off and the sound of it’s engine had dissipated, Aedan paused for a few moments to take in the sound of the waves hitting the beach behind the seawall across the street and the colors of the sun rising on a new day.

The smell of salt in the air is much heavier than in Seattle and the current temperature, quite comfortable was probably close to the high temperature back home today. Gulls lined the seawall as if waiting for the day’s festivities to begin. Vintage cars that would have made envious as a young man and surely the pride of others now, lined the street in their bright colors while other later modeled cars sat between them. Many of the later modeled cars were in disrepair but Aedan guessed their owners were nearly equally happy to have what they had.

After a few moments to soak this in, Aedan double checked the address of the building before him and lifted his suitcase which now felt extremely large. Despite it’s bulk, he easily made his way up the three steps to the door then knocked lightly, trying to not disturb the peacefulness of the morning.

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Awakened

Looking into the mirror
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“You don’t want to miss your plane, Mr. Charron.”  The clerk repeated as Aedan stared at her, not sure if she were ‘real’ or if he was dreaming.

“It leaves in one hour, there’s no time to waste!” she went on as Aedan slowly accepted that he should take her advice.  

The emotions of Aedan’s recent experience – be it a dream or some kind of vision – were still overwhelming him. At once he wanted to tell her about his experience because he didn’t feel it was a dream and yet he wasn’t sure what it was and even after a week in the hotel, she didn’t know him from Adam. He knew only her name, Louise, which he got from her name tag, that she was probably in her early twenties and had a pretty smile. No, this initial urge to share what he experienced needed to be digested.

Aedan pulled himself to his feet and brushed the grass from himself. Already on the move, she looked over her shoulder, smiling even bigger than she had in the past.  That it seemed the entire town was constantly smiling and especially friendly to him had initially bothered Aedan. It made him question their motives and sincerity. A week later and he had come to accept the smiles as genuine. There was something different about her smile now, though.

“Come on!” She grabbed his hand and tugged then laughed as she let go and started walking rapidly back to the hotel.

Aedan’s head was still full of all that he had just experienced so he followed after her somewhat blindly while trying to sort it all out. The older man at the table was not his father but it was him in the future. The boy was him as a child and then, there was no question about the other one at the table. They discussed many events in their lives but each remembered them differently. Some things Aedan wanted to talk about but the others glanced at the boy then shook their heads without saying a word. They discussed even bigger things – the meaning of life, of God, of being. Some of the ideas discussed with Aedan were foreign to him and yet, they seemed to make so much sense.  Others he appreciated technically and thought he understood their meaning but now he had actually experienced them and realized the difference was vast. And now? Suddenly he was following Louise back to the hotel as if he couldn’t find the way on his own.

The walk back to the hotel was less than 5 minutes at the pace they traveled. Aedan had everything packed except the clothes he had intended to change into. They were laid out on the bed along with his ticket, wallet and passport which were tucked into a pocket of his jacket. It wouldn’t take much time to change but the airport was another 10 minutes by car and then there was the hassle of getting through security. The realization of the short time he had brought his focus back to the present and away from his experience. There would be time to sort that out while on the plane.

Louise and Aedan barged into the hotel lobby nearly in a run. Not surprisingly, the lobby was empty except for the blonde haired woman behind the counter whom Aedan had guessed to be the manager. She was as friendly as the others but besides her senior years, was obviously the one called upon when there was a question about anything that the other clerks couldn’t address themselves.  

“Whoa! Slow down you two!” the lady behind the counter countered as Aedan was about to start up the stairs. “Mr. Charron, your flight has been delayed for a few hours. You’ve got plenty of time now”.

Aedan exhaled deeply, feeling the weight lift from his shoulders. “It is still coming today, right?  No offense but I’m really ready to begin this vacation!”. He laughed at himself.

“Yes, they had to do some unscheduled maintenance before leaving but I checked right after Louise left to find you about thirty minutes ago and the plane was taking off then.” She went on.

“Rats!  I was so looking forward to a bag of peanuts for lunch but… “ Aedan was cut off mid sentence.

“Nonsense, Mr. Charron “ exclaimed the voice from behind the counter. “Louise, fetch him a plate from the kitchen. “Today’s special is roast beef sandwiches and since you’ve been so pleasant in your extended stay here – and not too messy I might add – lunch is on the house.”

For the first time, Aedan saw Louise without a smile. In fact she looked horrified.

“Ms. Mann, I think Mr. Charron might prefer something else before his trip. There is a place around the corner with vegan options and am sure he can find something there”. Louise glanced briefly at Aedan briefly and then back to Ms. Mann.

Aedan studied Louise for an instant then smiled as he turned back to the Ms. Mann who was glaring at Louise. The instant of friction that Aedan had not witnessed since arriving didn’t last long.

Ms Mann nodded and a faint smile returned “Yes, of course, I forgot.’

“I appreciate your thoughtfulness, Ms. Mann .“, Aedan responded. “I do like her idea though, a quick lunch before I change and there won’t be any more dishes to pick up after me.” He winked at the manager and she smirked.

Her focus returned to Louise “Don’t be too long and Louise, for Goodness sake, don’t be spreading any gossip!”  

For an instant, the gaze between the two was as sharp as a knife.

“Oh please!” was all that came from Louise’s lips before she turned to Aedan “Ready when you are!” Her smile returned.

The restaurant that Louise took him to was actually one that had become a favorite of Aedan’s.  Being so close to the hotel, it hadn’t taken him long to find it. Now at lunch time, it was busier than Aedan had seen it before so they waited to be seated.

“Thank you for your interference.” He chuckled. “I am impressed that you noticed.”

“Oh, I know a lot about you, Mr. Charron”, she laughed.

His brows raised “Really?  Like what? “

Her eyes rolled.  It wasn’t the first time he had noticed the sarcastic thread in her but the first in this setting. “Seriously, it didn’t take long to figure that out and I know next to nothing else about you except…except you are dedicated to your work and..and you have a nice car that you haven’t touched in over a week.  A lot of good that does you.” Her smile was interrupted by the hostess prompting them to follow her to a table.

Once seated at a small table beside the window with menus in hand and iced tea ordered for both of them, Aedan continued. “And…what else do you know?”  He enjoyed the facial expressions she made to his questions. The rolling of her eyes, lifting of her eyebrows and exaggerated mouth movements…open emotions being shared, always got his attention.

“Nothing. Oh! I lied. I know your full name and address because it’s on your bill.  That’s it.” She laughed and Aedan figured she had told all she had to tell…or was willing to tell.

“And all I know about you is your first name.  It’s a beautiful name but a bit unusual for women of your age.  I had an aunt named Louise. Not too friendly from what I remember“ Aedan chuckled, anxious to see her animated response to his intended dig.

“Oh…yes, it is a bit unusual but it was my mother’s middle name and her mother’s first.  I loved that she shared that with me. My mother is a very caring woman and we’ll always have this connection no matter how far apart we are.”

The waiter returned and their lunch was ordered right away. As they waited the conversation remained light and playful. There was a familiarity in Louise that Aedan found comforting though he reminded himself several times that she was less than half his age and he would be leaving a couple hours.  The light conversation kept his mind off of the day’s earlier events too. Really, she happened along at the right time several times today.

Among other things, Aedan learned that she had recently finished college and had come to this city on a whim. Spontaneity was something she inherited from her mom. Undoubtedly, she learned much about him too as he found her quite easy to talk to.

With lunch done, Aedan glanced at his phone to get the time. “Are you expecting a call?” Louise asked?

“Oh no…just don’t want to miss the plane.” Aedan laughed as he saw the relief in her face. Nothing could hide behind that face.

“Of course! I’m sorry. I hate to see the time pass so quickly.”

For a moment their eyes locked and much was said with no words.  Aedan had to break the silence.

“So….I don’t know your middle name!  Marie? Ann? I don’t know what goes with Louise.”

Her eyes dropped to her glass as Louise took the last sip of her tea. “Sara” she said “without  the ‘h’”.

Aedan looked at her in silence, struggling to find words.

“My mother’s first name is Sarah and I guess she didn’t want to say she named me after her so she dropped the H from my middle name.’  Louise looked a bit upset for the first time since Aedan had met her.

Aedan regained his composure and tried to smile  “No…it’s a beautiful name. Your mother must love you very much. We should be moving before I miss that plane.”

He flagged down the waiter to request the bill but Louise interrupted “I got this.” and pulled a card from her purse to hand to the waiter.

Aedan’s protestation was met with a “Shhh… Ms. Mann said this was on the house and besides….you don’t have your wallet on you.”

Aedan’s mouth dropped as he felt his pocket and realized she was right. He had made all the preparations for his flight, including putting his wallet, ticket and passport in his suit pocket.

“OK, you win but don’t get used to that. I’m really glad we got this time together before I left. You have no idea of how much this has meant to me.”

The bright smile returned to her face “and I am so happy we did too, Mr Charron.”

“Aedan, please call me Aedan – or were you lying about knowing my name?”

Both laughed and Aedan held out his hand as he stood. Louise took his hand and as she stood then grabbed her purse.

“I’m going to drive you to the Airport once you get changed so let’s get going” she volunteered and they headed toward the door.

Before they made it out the door, the waiter caught up with them “Ma’am…your credit card..and your signature please.”

Again, Louise made the most amusing faces of surprise and embarrassment and Aedan admired every motion.

Back in his room at the hotel, Aedan found his suit just as he left it lying flat on the bed and waiting for him though the bed had already been made. His bag of toiletries was in the restroom beside the sink but as he entered the room he was shocked to see the mirror was missing.  It wasn’t necessary for anything he needed to do but still, one gets used to staring at oneself, counting wrinkles, noting the losing battle with the receding hairline. With those thoughts he began again thinking about the morning’s events but closed his eyes, took a deep breath and pushed it away for now.

Once done in the restroom, Aedan undressed and put his now dirty clothes in a separate bag before putting them into his suitcase. When he lifted his suit coat from the bed his passport fell out of the inner pocket.  With little thought but to make sure he put it back in there better this time, he verified that his wallet was in the same pocket where he had left it earlier as was the plane ticket.

Once dressed and back in the lobby with his suitcase, Aedan asked Ms. Mann about the mirror.  She apologized and explained how it fell while housekeeping was in his room and expressed concern that all the pieces hadn’t been picked up as she handed him his receipt. “It’s been a pleasure serving you, Mr. Charron and I hope you’ll return one day.  Now, be on your way and don’t miss that plane.”

Louise dangled the keys before her “Your chauffeur is here.”  The smile on her lips didn’t quite hide her real emotions. Aedan wasn’t the only one that noticed.

The short trip to the airport was much quieter than their earlier walks. Louise asked about his plans, how long he would stay. Small talk. Aedan felt some regret in leaving at this moment and yet this is what he had been planning for months and he truly needed some time to himself to sort the day’s events out.

Arriving at the airport, Louise pulled up to the curb and looked at Aedan “I guess this is it. The next leg of your journey begins. I really hope it goes as you wish.”

“Everybody needs a break once in a while, Louise.  Don’t forget that. “ Aedan said jokingly.

“Is that an invitation?” She asked.

They both laughed as Aedan got out and pulled his bag from the back seat.  To his surprise, Louise got out of the car and walked around to him. Aedan set the suitcase down and they hugged. The fragrance of her hair filled Aedan’s lungs before they both let go and looked into each other’s eyes again. “Aedan, please don’t forget me…come back again, ya hear?”

“No, there’s no way I’m forgetting you.  Thank you for today. Now get back to work before Ms. Mann comes looking for you!”

With his bags checked in at the curb and having checked in the night before, Aedan headed straight to security. Though he would be transferring in Miami, when asked for ID, he presented both is passport and driver’s license. The guard inspected both and wished him a safe trip.  All the rush and eagerness was suddenly lifted. He had finally made it with time to spare.

It seemed as though it had been a month since he first tried to leave from this airport. This town was starting to feel like home. Aedan made his way to the terminal and found a seat against the wall where he could stretch out and relax. And think.  He had so much to think about.

When the arrival of his flight was announced an hour later he set aside those thoughts as difficult as it was and took a seat closer to the window where he watched the plane taxi up to the terminal.  Fifteen minutes later passengers began unloading and streaming past him. He remembered how not so long ago that would be the point of reunion with friends and family but these days, it was just a rush to get out of the terminal to meet them and wait on luggage.

The terminal was now full of people waiting to board the plane.  All headed to Miami…a good bit of them pale skinned and surely headed for a painful sunburn but all excited to be going.  And he sat among them though feeling a bit disconnected.

The plane had been empty for a good thirty minutes but no boarding had started yet. There was some discussion behind the counter.  Aedan caught a tone of frustration as he tried to listen to the conversation that wasn’t intended to be heard. It was at that time that the flight information sign changed to indicate that his flight was now delayed.

Within the terminal that he sat was an all inclusive sigh of disappointment and frustration. An announcement was made that there was additional maintenance needed on the plane but no ETA could yet be announced. Further information would be given as soon as possible but it was another thirty minutes before any more substantial information was given. Despite the earlier delay, the issue of concern had returned and the best course of action was still being determined.

Aedan hardly noticed the ongoing delays by now.  He was deep in thought again. He was in awe over the morning’s events and sorting out what it meant for him.  He was confused about the afternoon with Louise and what he had learned from her. He wondered if these two events were somehow connected.

An hour after the flight had first been delayed for the second time today, it was announced that a solution had been proposed and was being implemented but would take two to three hours to complete. Refunds were being offered.  Aedan scoffed at the idea. He had waited nearly two weeks. What was two more hours? Additionally, he had said hs goodbys and thought it unwise to go back to the hotel at this time.

So, he sat and thought more. The voices in the terminal became a background noise that he barely heard. He tried to meditate but his mind wouldn’t slow down enough. Perhaps the only thing he didn’t think about was work.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, boarding will start in ten minutes” is what pulled Aedan back to the present. He opened his eyes and saw for the first time that the sun had set and it was well into dusk.  From where he sat, he could look down and see movement in the illuminated cockpit and luggage being loaded. Finally there would be another step forward.

He watched the lights zip by as planes took off and landed. It was dark enough that he could see the reflection of people walking by behind him in the huge glass pane before him. He could see the attractive blonde haired woman a few seats from him without obviously staring.

What he didn’t see was himself.  There was a figure in the seat that he occupied. The clothes were the same but it wasn’t his face.

Aedan was bewildered. He looked right and left and saw the people on either side of him reflected in the glass. He slowly raised his right arm and saw the figure before him raising the same arm. He repeated this movement with his left arm and sat in terror, afraid to move. That was not his face that he saw.  The reflection was dim but he was certain it wasn’t his.

“Boarding is now beginning, please have your passes out”. The words passed right over Aedan.

He stood and walked slowly up to the glass until he could more clearly see the reflection. The face was his but from at least twenty five years earlier.

Illusions

Aedan meets himself - several times
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A fog that lasts for a week with no retreat, that seeps under door and down stairways should disrupt the mood of anybody. Yet, today Aedan felt a bit of sadness as the sun pulled back the curtains and fully immersed everyone and everything for the first time since he arrived in this town over a week ago. It was though an old friend had left while he slept without saying good bye.

In any other circumstance he would have been overjoyed to see the sun. His vacation had been delayed and he was stuck in a town in which he didn’t know anybody before arriving. And frankly, Aedan had always preferred the sunny tropics to the cold north. However, things had worked out well. He warmed up to the locals who were nearly always bending over backwards to make him feel at home.

When he learned that one of the cases he was trying had been rescheduled and that his physical appearance was no longer necessary, he made arrangements to work remotely until the fog lifted and he could make his flight.  His associate Cathy was quite capable and Aedan imagined she probably relished the idea of ‘being in charge’. Without the typical interruptions of the office to deal with, Aedan re-evaluated all of the cases in his office and when prudent, communicated his concerns back to Cathy. He felt way ahead of the game and physically, was also feeling better than he had in years. He was ready for a well deserved vacation.

It wasn’t long before he had all of his bags packed and after verifying with the airport, the time of his departure, Aedan set off for a final walk along the waterway. He had seen it many times now but none with the sun shining.

Approximately halfway between his hotel and the cathedral housing the tall statue that caught his attention on his first day out,  there was a small sitting area in an open garden that had become a favorite spot for him. It was secluded and he had never once seen anybody there. Best of all for him, it was surrounded by a small, block faced garden wall which he found very convenient for leaning against while sitting in meditation.

On the floor of this small patio was etched roman numerals indicating the hours of a clock along with smaller divides between each hour.  It seemed an odd place to paint a clock face but it was a perfect place for meditating and with three hours to kill he thought a perfect place to spend the rest of the morning also.

It was no surprise that he found the patio empty other than the table and chairs that sat in the center. With the sun shininig it was a brighter white than he had imagined and all around, in the heavy trees that surrounded the area, birds sang in celebration of the sun.  It seemed that not everyone here preffered the fog.

After the relaxing walk, Aedan wasted no time in finding an open spot on the outside of the wall and sitting with his legs crossed, he leaned back against the wall and turned his palms up as his eyes closed. Not only did he prefer to have some support for his back while meditating, he had given up long ago in trying to sit in a lotus position. He simply hadn’t started this practice at an early enough age he told himself. Normally he would set a timer on his watch for 45 minutes but since he had plenty of time, he didn’t bother.

After years of meditating almost daily, Aedan still dealt with the ‘monkey brain’. Often he felt that he was just doing something wrong. Occasionally dozing off and finding his head nearly in his lap was another struggle he dealt with. At least he wouldn’t fall backwards with the wall behind him. Occasionally he would hear conversations in his head or see things but he was never quite sure if they were day dreams or important…still he persisted if only because he always completed a meditation session feeling rested.

When he began hearing voices today he was sure he wasn’t dreaming. He knew exactly where he was and that he had never seen anybody there over the last week. Thinking it was just his monkey brain having fun with him he practiced letting the voices flow into the distant road noise and singing birds.  They were just notes in a beautiful orchestra.  But they persisted.

There were three voices, one a child and the others adult men.  He tried to ignore them but soon came to realize that one of the voices was his. A smile filled his face as he told himself in yet another voice in his head that surely the monkey was having fun today. He sat third party to a conversation that he was participating. It was both amusing and unsettling because he couldn’t feel any of the thoughts in that voice. He played back and tried to change the conversation in his head but it went on and payed no heed to him. Finally he gave in and just listened.

As he listened it became quite apparent that the three of them knew each other very well. As they talked, a curious feeling came over Aedan as the child’s voice became more familiar to him.  Maybe it wasn’t the voice but the questions he asked and his responses…they could have been his own at a young age. At some point Aedan tried to join in on the conversation but nothing he thought changed the course of their discussion. He tried again but only grew anxious when he was ignored. Finally, in frustration he spoke out loud “Oh! Just stop it already!” and decided this meditation was over. The voices stopped but he had opened his eyes and was pulled himself back to his feet.  He brushed the dust off the seat of his jeans and turned around.

On the other side of the waist high wall were three people sitting at the table not 5 feet away from him. To his right was an older man that resembled his father but directly facing him was a man that could have been his twin! Nearest to him was a young boy who had turned in his chair to face him. Aedan stood their speechless. They all smiled at him.  His mind raced as he looked at each one again. He hadn’t really seen his father the last few years of his life but this is how he imagined him to look before he passed some twenty years prior. The boy was a spitting image of the photos his parents had kept of him in the photo albums that got pulled out every Christmas. His gaze turned back to his twin. He stared and thought “this must be a dream”.

“No, no it’s not. Come sit with us” His twin voiced and motioned to the one empty chair around the table.

Completely overwhelmed and expecting to wake up at any moment, Aedan made his way around the wall to the entrance of the patio. He looked at each of the three of them very closely as he slowly approached the table. As he took a seat in the chair a feeling of joy came over him. It was as if a huge secret was being shared with him. He was barely able to speak as he listened to them one by one.  It’s not that they wouldn’t have given him the chance but they answered all his questions even before he voiced them. As he listened he realized that he already knew the answers, he just hadn’t fully appreciated their implications. He simply sat in awe of what was being revealed to him.

“Mr. Charron! Mr. Charron, wake up!”

Aedan grasped for his breath and opened his eyes to find the young clerk from the hotel shaking at his shoulder.

“Hurry or you’re going to miss your plane!”

In The Fog

A moment of reflection
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Aedan opened his eyes yet again, having never really gotten to sleep. This time however, he could see from the gray outside the windows of the airport that the night had passed. It wasn’t exactly sunny outside but it was daylight. The fog was much thicker than when he had decided to spend what was rest of the evening on a bench in the airport but certainly something would be open now.  A place to clean up, to eat and to explore while he waited for the next flight to the vacation he had been looking forward to for so long.

The constant sounds from inside the airport had permeated his flesh and blood over the last several hours. He barely noticed it until he stepped out the door and it closed behind him. Even the passing shuttle and the smell of diesel in the heavy moist air failed in comparison.  It came and it went. It didn’t take over his very being. Seeing a taxi at the curb, he transferred his suitcase to the other hand and waved to get his attention.

The driver was an older gentleman who similar to the shuttle driver from last night was eager to talk and wore an unending smile. Fortunately for Aedan, there were few pauses where he would actually be expected to respond. Aedan learned there was no hotel close to the airport.  There was only one within a fifteen minute drive making his choice quite easy. As they drove, the driver gave him the full tour of the city which, even through the fog seemed quite organized and clean.  Perhaps the best part he thought, was that he saw very few people on the streets.

Four hours later, Aedan was up, showered and even shaved his beard off for the first time in years. There was no specific reason for this.  He was simply feeling a desire to make some changes in his life and while on vacation seemed like a perfect time to do that. Fortunately, the waitress in the small restaurant across the street from the hotel wasn’t nearly as talkative as everybody else he had run into though she didn’t smile any less. Her smile didn’t change even when he requested a couple changes in his order to make his breakfast vegan.

By the time he stepped out of the restaurant, he was feeling much better even though he hadn’t really slept. The fog had become somewhat comforting and he felt, let him blend in with the surroundings as he explored the city. The city too began feeling more welcoming. Many times had he passed through but now that he was walking the sidewalks and docks he realized he had never actually seen the place even on bright sunny days. Today, barely able to see through the fog twenty feet in front of him, he saw so much more.

He walked the docks admiring the sailboats. He had actually considered chartering and sailing the last leg to his destination but determined it would take too much time. Upon reaching the end of one dock, he headed up the stairs cut into stone and into thicker fog.  At the top he found what appeared to be a Cathedral but had no doors. It was decorated with stained glass and archways that towered over him as he walked in. At the center of this great hall was a huge statue of a female figure above her head was raised a sword. He wondered if this was a tribute to a last and fatal stand or a victory.

The solitude and emotion swept over him. Out of nowhere came a memory that a long time friend had passed away a week prior and today would be a Celebration of Life for him. It wasn’t quite two years since his wife had also fell to the tragedies of cancer. Because he had already planned this trip and was unable to reschedule it, he left condolences for the children before he left. Now he stood here alone. It seemed quite appropriate to spend a few moments reflecting this passing of life before continuing his own journey.

Waiting for the next clerk

Days Like This

Waiting for the next clerk
Better late than never
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Compared to the preparation to depart on this vacation, the drive to the airport was uneventful. Atypical for him, Aedan surpassed the speed limit several times knowing he was pushing it but it was all for naught when both lanes came to a crawl to gawk at an accident going the opposite direction. A deep breath and a bit more volume on the radio seemed to pacify his angst. After all, there really was nothing he could do.  He tried to not think about the ‘what ifs’ should he not make it to the airport in time. Hopefully the line through security would be short.

Shortly before arriving at the airport the radio had become more annoying than soothing. The commercials ran on and on until he searched for another station playing anything that interested him at all. As they too became filled with mindless voices telling him to buy this or that he pressed the power button and filled the car with silence…as much silence as was possible anyway. In this silence he made his way through the dark. The bluish LED headlamps peeled away the darkness to reveal a soft haze beneath the pine trees that lined either side of the road.

As he got closer to the airport the haze had grown to a light fog and slithered across the road, eagerly swallowing him as he followed the path into it. Aedan thought to himself that this might be a good thing, if there were any a delay in the departure of his flight for any reason whatsoever. When he pulled into the long term parking lot he found an open spot close to the shuttle stop. He had no sooner pulled the suitcase from the passenger seat and locked the doors when the shuttle pulled up. A minute later he was on the shuttle and headed for the terminal. Things were looking up.

The shuttle driver was a friendly guy and seemed to enjoy talking. In the five minutes it took to get to the terminal, Aedan was certain that the driver spent more time looking up into the mirror at him than at the road. He had probably driven the route thousands of times and might be able to do it blindfolded. His voice soon became a drone in Aedan’s head. It went on and on and was only relieved with the shuttle pulled up to the curb and with a huge smile, turned his head and looked at Aedan “We’re here. Enjoy your trip”. Aedan quickly grabbed his suitcase and jumped off the bus.

Inside the terminal, there was a buzz of conversation. Arriving and departing passengers exchanged greetings and goodbyes with loved ones and friends. The loud speaker rattled off flight information and who knows what else. He wasn’t listening but looking for the information board to check on his flight status as he made his way to security to be screened. When he finally found his flight information, a wave of regret passed through him. His flight had already departed. He couldn’t have missed it by much. It was probably still on the runway waiting to depart but it would do it without him.

With his suitcase now feeling much heavier, Aedan stepped out of the screening line and headed back to the ticketing agents to find out when the next flight was and whether there was space available. As he stood in line wondering what his future plans were, the constant noise of conversation, ringing bells and announcements over the loud speaker filled his head. The words were barely intelligible in the droning sound. He looked at a couple near him and just as he pulled their voices from the buzz, they both looked at him and smiled. Not trying to be nosy he looked away immediately but this repeated several times. It had been a long day.

After what seemed an eternity, he made it to the ticketing agent.  The next flight to his destination, twelve hours from then was full. There wouldn’t be another for two days but there was a seat available. He asked about alternate routes but there was only one daily flight to his destination. The isolation is why he chose the destination he did and now he would have to wait.

By now the fog had become quite thick outside and he was tired. He was too tired to go looking for a hotel at this hour so he found an empty row of seats in a corner, pushed his suitcase beneath it and made himself comfortable.

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