I was heading home to visit my mom in her waning days. With a heavy heart, I made my way toward my seat. In my haste to book a flight, I’d given up on the balky select-a-seat option, figuring I’d get one when I checked in. No choices were left on that full flight; I’d been assigned to the last row, by the bathroom.

I elbowed all 125 pounds of my petite frame to the rear of the plane, weary after the long run through the airport. As I neared my row, my eyes widened, and I double-checked my seat assignment, praying the empty center seat was not mine.

Against the window was a faceless fixture of a young man burrowed under his dark hoodie, invisible behind dark glasses and tuned out by his ear buds. On the aisle was another ominous stereotype.

He was the classic image: boots, leather vest, chains, tattoos, bandana headband wrapped above three-foot-long braid down his back. He was also HUGE. But he read my face, and stood up to stow my bag and gestured for me to take my seat.

I met the nicest guy that day. He had just left his dad’s hospital bedside. Both vets, they wouldn’t be riding in Rolling Thunder that year. He lived on a farm next door to a minister. He was in church every Sunday. We shared his movie: “Cars.”

Valerie Fraser,


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