It’s Christmas Day at Logan Airport, and at International Arrivals the blue wall-mounted computer screen announces that the flight from London Heathrow has just landed. From the sound system above, Burl Ives wishes one and all a holly jolly Christmas.
I wait in the greeters’ herd, standing in a semi-circle around the cordoned off terminal entrance. Before us, the mouth of the cannon, spilling out loved ones and flight crews. Out they stream, the London passengers: an older Indian woman in a sari the color of a tangerine; an older couple in matching jackets swinging a huge Paddington Bear between them.
I scan the group, as Burl croons the romantic part of his carol, promising that someone is waiting for you, just waiting for that kiss.
I’m waiting for Nigel. We met two months earlier, just weeks before my return to America. He’s a moving man. We “fell in love” over the course of a crazy, intense three days when he packed up my life. Not conventionally handsome; small, compact and scrappy. Contrary to stereotype, good teeth.
I bought Nigel the ticket to Boston. Come for Christmas, I said. Cor, luv, love to, he said. He’d said much the same on the phone the night before.
The Muzak track is on to Mariah Carey. She trills that all she wants for Christmas is yooooooo.
The crowd is beginning to thin. I look up at the arrivals information screen again. A ticker tape along the bottom of the screen announces there are no other flights due in to Boston today.
That song about do you know it’s Christmas, from the sound system above. Not my favorite. It’s more about famine than cheer.
A young soldier, dressed in camo and a New England Patriots woolen hat, emerges from behind security, and there’s an eruption of shouts and cheers from the group to my right. “Donovan! Mattie Donovan! Over here!”
The soldier scissor kicks over the security rope, then dives into the noisy pack and surfaces seconds later, bobbing in a sea of loved ones. He shouts, Boston accent front and center, “Hey, Ma! I told ya I’d make it home for Christmas.”
Dean Martin, in a voice tinged with velvet and Scotch, sings about letting it snow.
Then, finally, I’m the last person in the terminal except for the guy working the Information Desk.
“Is it possible there is anyone still stuck in Customs?” I ask him, willing my voice not to crack.
“No, ma’am, sorry,” he says. Pause. He drops down to a whisper. “Maybe there’s been a mistake?”
“Yes.” I say. Then, steeling myself and holding back the tears. “Yes, there has been a mistake. A big mistake.”