It's late at night on Christmas Day, 1999. I'm standing in a cold, nearly deserted concourse of San Francisco International Airport. The canned music is playing insipid, watered-down holiday music. The lighting is indirect, muted, almost grey.
Occasionally there's a sign of a plane landing - a small burst of activity, then nothing. A few people are drowsily waiting for red-eye flights to the east. They are bundled up, some clutching bitter fast-food coffee.
The windows are dark, because from this concourse you can't see runways or even the ramps. It's an oddity of the layout.
I'm focused on a door at the end of the concourse on the left wall. A gate agent occasionally shows up, rummages around doing whatever they do, then leaves. Two or three people are obviously waiting for an arrival.
Finally, the tempo picks up a bit. A few more people arrive. There are clusters of 2 and 3 sometimes, but mostly there are singles. Some younger, mostly middle-aged. A family or two with kids.
Without warning, the door opens. Uniformed attendants come out, followed by a sluggish outflow of passengers, laden with carry-on luggage, coats, mufflers, magazines and some pulling luggage with wheels.
The flow continues. I watch. The flow finally tapers off. It stops. I wait. It starts again. More flight attendants come out. More sluggish passengers, like grey human lava, fanning out into the still gaping and quiet concourse.
It's a soundless, joyless process. No Hallmark moments. No couples running to embrace on Christmas Day. It's so sterile and sad in a way.
I wait. My chest is tightening. Did I miss a message? Is this the wrong flight?
One final spurt of passengers comes out - like that last dribble when you, well, you know....
And there he is at last. The man moving from DC to live with me. My world, my life, my joy. My Dave.
Merry Christmas to me, and to us, and to all of you. May you all have one so wonderful someday.