Can I Hold Your Hand?

I have experienced kindness.

It was the most important thing that’s happened to me in under four minutes.

Yesterday I was on the bumpiest flight I’ve ever been on and I’ve been on a few. I was flying back to Austin after a week of hopping around the South, capping off days of planes, trains and automobiles. Seated at the very back, with a row to myself, I gripped an armrest and started counting my breaths and repeating the Lord’s Prayer. I was praying because I felt the wave of unconsciousness about to crash on my proverbial shore and that’s my biggest fear: fainting in public.

It became bad enough that the flight attendants were asked to take their seats. Apparently one of them had no seat to take because she asked me to scoot over–if I didn’t mind–so she could comply. Having someone squeeze in next to me when I’m panicking ratchets the panic up a notch but there were no more notches on my ladder.

Elizabeth (I later got her name) got in the center seat and her colleague took the aisle. As soon as Elizabeth’s backside touched the seat I made a nakedly pleading request. I would never have been able to say it had the wave not been bearing down. I wondered if this was the way some women’s inhibitions are stripped away while giving birth.

I said, “Can I Hold Your Hand?”. I was too urgent to say please. She was in an endless struggle to buckle the seatbelt. I was considering asking her to drop the seatbelt strap that very moment. I was considering grabbing her arm before she was securely fastened.

Maybe she got it fastened and maybe not: I can’t remember. The colleague had popped out some headphones to watch “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, the Melissa McCarthy movie. I said ‘”Can I Hold Your Hand?” and it was really more of a statement than a question. I was going for her hand while I heard her say ‘Yes’. Then the colleague saw and said “Aww’.

Holding this stranger’s hand I felt that I wasn’t going to float from my body after all. I held her hand more lightly that I thought would’ve been required. She responded with a similarly light hold. I was ready to release Elizabeth’s hand in a few minutes and then came the real miracle: she turned and asked if I wanted to keep holding. She said it would be totally fine and I swear on my life she was sincere. I decided to cry later, when I was home, instead of right then and there.

Elizabeth: I wish there was something I could do for you. It wouldn’t be enough; only a mere token. If good energy and bad float around on the air like some people suspect, a happy wind is at your back. I hope that wind blows you far away from any present sorrow you may feel.

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