I was sitting at the airport waiting for a flight and observing the travelers around me when I noticed the two distinct types of people. The married and the unmarried. Little details like wedding rings and phone conversations ending with “I love you too” painfully stand out when you’re recently widowed.
I began methodically studying every left hand visible and realized the majority of those around me fell into the married category. I then broke down the married category into the leisure couples embarking on a vacation together (complete with their matching luggage sets) and the business travelers who appeared much less excited to be at the airport. The leisure couples mostly wore looks of anticipation and excitement about their upcoming vacation, or they wore expressions of fatigue…waiting to finally fall into their own bed after restless nights spent in hotel rooms. Most of these couples were happily engaged in conversation but there were a few who were engrossed in electronic gadgets or magazines. Even the couples distracted by devices or absorbed in books made casual yet meaningful efforts to let the other half know they were there. Sometimes this was a hand placed upon the knee, a quick kiss on the cheek or even a gentle game of footsie.
Then there were the business travelers like myself. Although I didn’t keep a specific count it certainly felt as though almost everyone had something shiny on their left ring finger that said “I may be flying solo but there is someone waiting for me at home.” I suddenly became acutely aware that I was a fraud…pretending to be one of the loved and missed. I too had my wedding ring on but there was nobody I needed to call once I arrived safely to my hotel, and there wouldn’t be anyone looking forward to my arrival home.
I began nervously twisting my wedding ring around my finger with my other hand fully expecting everyone to see through me, and to know that my left ring finger was lying. But nobody did. Or maybe there was another widow sitting at gate 34 who recognized the silent anguish on my face as I struggled not to cry.