Chapter 4 | Daxten

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I can't let him know. I feel my insides sink. My organs are suffocating. My throat shrinks. My eyes sting.

      Brando continues to talk. Maybe he hasn't noticed.

      'As long as I'm strapped in the whole way, I'll be fine.'

      I want to reply but I think if I speak, I'll stumble over my words. I'll reveal myself too quickly. This stranger can't see me cry when my own exes never witnessed a single tear fall from my eyes. I grab my phone and place it inside the pocket of my jacket. I can't look at it anymore.

      I look at Brando instead, finally. He's looking down at his coffee cup. I've made him feel so uncomfortable. I feel awful for it. Sometimes I don't think before I speak and act; I don't comprehend how I come across to other people sometimes.

      He looks small. His arms reach down between his legs as he hunches over. I think he's trying to hide himself behind the table. He has a small build, so he'll easily achieve invisibility if that's what he's going for. If he goes any lower, his face will sink into his gingerbread latte.

      'Tell me,' I say to stop him from disappearing into oblivion, though his nose is already covered with cream. 'Who is that guy you were sitting with, and why aren't you still sitting with him?' He sits up straight. The question has caught him off guard. I rub my nose to indicate he has cream on his, but he doesn't get the hint. 'You have cream on your nose.'

      'I do?' He asks as he reaches for his face. There isn't that much cream there, but because his nose is so small, it makes him look like a snowman with a white carrot for a nose – if white carrots exist.

      'You got it,' I tell him with a half-smile once he manages to wipe all the cream off.

      'Thanks,' he says as he looks around for something to wipe his hands on. I grab a napkin from under my coffee cup and he accepts it gratefully. 'Oh, that guy. Nick. Uh, he's someone I know from New York. We used to be...' he hesitates to say, 'friends.'

      Something tells me they were more than just friends, but I don't blame him for not indulging me with his life story. I have given no indication that I'm the kind of person he can share personal things with. And to be honest, I'm not. I'm a firm believer in keeping personal things personal. But I am curious as to why he's decided to move away from him.

      'Did you get sick of him while on vacation?'

      It's the only explanation I can think of.

      'Oh, we didn't go on vacation together. I went to Cambodia to do some volunteer work, so I got a flight from there to here, so I can get my connecting flight home to New York. Turns out he knew exactly where I would be for this flight, so he booked a vacation here and arranged his return to coincide with mine.'

      'That's an extreme thing to do. Why would he do that?'

      He shrugs. 'I don't know what goes on in that privileged head of his.'

      I look over to Nick. He's very stuffy-looking and a total opposite to Brando. I would never put them together. Brando's hair is messy, his clothes look as though they were bought from a bargain bin and he doesn't look altogether clean. I understand that he had to run through an entire airport, but still, judging by looks, they do not fit together.

      Brando is not the type of person I would usually talk to either. If he started talking to me in the street, I would have told him I haven't any change to give him. I would have then ignored him completely. But we're stuck in an airport, for now, so I have to make do with what company comes my way. Leah would love this.

      'When you say friends, do you mean you had a fallen out?'

      Brando looks reluctant to tell me. 'Yeah we did.'

      'And he's privileged?'

      Brando nods. 'Well, he likes to think so. He had me in the palm of his hands because I'm a sucker with low self-esteem and some kind of primal need to feel loved... as a friend. But no more of that. I have learned my lesson, big time!'

      I can't help but sympathise with him. There's something endearing about the way he speaks and shares himself with me. He probably doesn't realise it himself. The air is warm around him – I feel it. This is the kind of person I should get to know, but I'm conditioned not to.

      'Good for you,' I say, trying to sound as if I'm proud of this stranger's progress. 'I can agree with that. Live and learn from past mistakes. It's actually how I look at life – it's okay to make mistakes as long as we gain some insight from them. Don't let mistakes be a waste.'

      Brando looks at me as if I've blown his mind. 'That's a good way of looking at it. I don't know how to turn Nick into a positive though.'

      'Then why do you put yourself through it?'

      'I didn't know he was going to ambush me at the airport!' He sounds defensive.

      'But you still let him bother you.'

      'I don't know how to not let him bother me.'

      'Then it seems the problem is something more than just Nick.'

      Brando looks away. I surprise myself – since when did I become a therapist? I don't usually like to listen to people's problems, but it's very easy for me to give an opinion on them. I probably overstepped. Or maybe I didn't, maybe I told him exactly what he needed to hear?

      'I've finished my coffee,' Brando says. I look at his mug and there is still about half of it left. He stands. 'Thank you for the seat. I appreciate it.'

      I feel awful again. He has a knack for doing that to me. 'Where are you going?'

      'It shouldn't be long before boarding,' he says as he puts his backpack over his shoulders. He really does look like one of those frantic travellers you see every now and then in the airport, all alone with a look of purpose on their faces.

      I should stop him but I don't. I should apologise but I don't.

      'Good day,' he tells me and walks off before I can respond. He's really sensitive, that's what I take away from this fleeting conversation.

      Oh well, he's just another stranger in an airport.

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