The small world

There is a little boy next to me, he must be 2 or 3. Even when his legs are fully extended they don’t touch the seat in front of him. Mostly he just touches me, which is okay. His father looks to be in his 40s, salt and pepper hair, broad shoulders and unexciting blue jeans. He’s tall. I assume he is the kind of tall that takes care of people, like reaches for things in the overhead bin for old ladies or carries multiple children to the house at once; that gentle, spacious tall. But who knows.


“Do you want to lay down?” he keeps asking his son in English, who does not want to lay down. “Baby, do you want to take a nap?” he suggests, but the son does not want to take a nap. I like how English sounds in his mouth; it bounces, like rain in a hard city.


We take off. The son and I look out the window, watching the world get smaller and smaller.


Then the father, all 6 foot mountain of him, curls himself into a seashell and lays his upper body in his son’s lap. Without speaking, his son puts one tiny arm on his shoulder and one tiny arm around his head and his little back is strong and his little eyes are soft, and like this he holds his father. Now the son is making circles with his palm, very small ripples across the landscape of his father. Now he is slowly stroking his father’s wild sideburn with one finger. I think they must have done this before.


The father is asleep. If you held them up to your ear, I bet you could hear the ocean inside them. I bet everything in their ocean has a home to belong to. Even I belong here, simply by being here, an innocent bystander to the intimacy of strangers.


Why are some children born into sweetness and some are born into war? Line up their fathers and how could you tell their tenderness apart. I cannot fathom at this beloved moment or at any other, how a grown man could ever shoot tear gas at another man’s child. How a woman could walk their babies 3000 desperate miles to our doorstep and still some mothers would not let them in. In many ways, we have already built the wall.


Perhaps our anxious leaders have never held space like this, where no one is alone and there is always enough room. I want to bottle it up and share it. I want to swim in it and be free. I want to be immigrant and rooted, here, forty thousand feet above America. Where there is not a person, not a place, not a planet too small to love generously.