When next he sees her, he is buying a magazine
to read during the flight and becomes aware that someone is jostling
him. At first he is startled that anyone would be so close as to
touch him, but when he sees who it is he musters a smile.
“Busy place,” he says.
She looks up at him—is she blushing? —and
an odd grimace crosses her mouth and vanishes. She moves away from
him and joins the crowds in the terminal.
The man is at the counter with his magazine,
but when he reaches into his back pocket for his wallet the pocket
is empty. Where could I have lost it? he thinks. His mind begins
enumerating the credit cards, the currency, the membership and identification
cards; his stomach churns with something very like fear. The girl
who was so near to me, he thinks-and all at once he understands
that she has picked his pocked.
What is he to do? He still has his ticket,
safely tucked inside his suitcoat—he reaches into the jacket to
feel the envelope, to make sure. He can take the flight, call someone
to pick him up at his destination-since he cannot even afford bus
fare-conduct his business and fly home. But in the meantime he will
have to do something about the lost credit cards-call home, have
his wife get the numbers out of the top desk drawer, phone the card
companies-so difficult a process, the whole thing suffocating. What
shall he do?