There was the usual hodgepodge of folks – young lovers saying goodbye, grandparents greeting the youngest additions to the family, anxious travelers staring at the departures/arrivals boards. But my eyes were drawn to a young man.
He was with two ladies and a young boy. I tried to piece together the puzzle. I quickly surmised that the ladies were probably mother and daughter. The boy was about five. How did he fit into the mix? The young man was staying behind and he was saying goodbye to the other three.
I watched the young man say goodbye to the ladies – perfunctory hugs. But with the little boy, he got down on the ground and took off his baseball hat. He hugged the boy tight and looked directly into his eyes and smiled broadly at him. He tousled the boy’s hair and then turned to leave. At that moment, I saw a very vulnerable young man.
His face flushed and a wave of emotion passed over him. He paused for a moment and stared off into space. Something brought him back to reality and he quickly composed himself. He put his hat back on his head. He adjusted his hoodie. He strutted out of the airport. But I knew. I knew he wasn’t the tough guy that he wanted everyone to believe that he was … he was a young man who just said goodbye to his younger brother or to his son – and despite his swagger and his clothes, Mr. Tough Guy was feeling pretty vulnerable at that moment.