Dear Airport People,

Did you notice me? Did you see me? As we rode the escalator together, did you realize I was standing next to you? Could you feel my fear when we sat next to each other?

Suit, your conversation seemed to be very important. Giggles, you must have been chatting with an old friend. You were both contentedly consumed in your own conversations, in your own worlds.

Did you notice Somber? Or Serious? Or each other? Or me?

So absorbed in your phones and laptops, I don’t think you did. We were in each other’s presence, but it surely didn’t feel like it.

Technically speaking, you were present. In elementary school you would have avoided a phone call home. Your body stood, walked and sat next to mine. We shared the same air and occasionally a few strained glances. But you were not with me. You were present in your emails and phone calls but not in the airport corridors.

So then, what does it mean to be present? To be in the presence of others?

When you are in the presence of a child there is a tangible joy that rises out of your heart and rests on your face. Something similar happens when you are with someone you love (though sometimes it sits in your stomach as well). When you visit a dying grandparent in the hospital, there is a different sort of exchange. In those moments, there is a tangible feeling of absence and longing; the presence of the person is not fully present.

To be present, to be in the presence of others, must mean more than the box checked during roll call. It has to. If being present simply means existing in a space, I wouldn’t have noticed the vacancy of the congested airport.

What does it really mean to be in the presence of others?

Submitted by Anna Lopynski. Orginially published on

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