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I was traveling from London to Martha’s Vineyard, a tricky route considering Martha’s Vineyard is an island that one can access from mainland Massachusetts either by ferry or the less popular and more expensive route via a small plane. Already anxious about flying, I sat and stared at the flight board, tracking the times and gates of the planes arriving and departing at Heathrow. An announcement eventually came over the tannoy, my flight had been delayed by four hours which meant I would miss the connecting ferry that was to take me from Boston airport to the island of Martha’s Vineyard. I clutched my luggage tighter, my heart hammering hard. How was I going to finish the last leg of this journey?

I considered hauling my suitcase back down the escalator and back through security to get back on the tube and ride the train the hour back to my flat in Shoreditch. Not shying from adventure despite my palpable and crippling anxiety, I wandered over to a different part of the hall, where people from my flight had migrated away from the gate. A family was sitting together, a man in his sixties with gray hair in close curls across his head and a woman of similar age, her pale hair pushed against her neck by a circle of paisley silk scarf. They were a smart couple. A young boy concentrated on his Game Boy beside the woman. I sat down in the empty chair next to the boy who I assumed was their son.

“Hi,” I said quietly and smiled. The man and woman smiled back at me. The boy didn’t look up from his game but methodically punched his thumbs across the controllers.

“Excuse me,” I addressed the man, “do you know anything about our flight? And whether it’s still going to be delayed?”

The man pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and sighed.

“It’s so typical, whenever you’re trying to get somewhere straight forward you make it easy peasy; when you’re traveling a long and awkward route…” He rolled his eyes. “Thank god we booked a flight on the plane to Martha’s Vineyard.”

“I’m going to Martha’s Vineyard too,” I said. “But now I guess I’ll miss my ferry.” I realized my voice was shaking slightly and pressed my fingers to my throat to steady my breath.

The man looked at his watch. “Oh yeah, there’s no way you’ll make the last ferry.”

His wife put her hand on his arm. “Could we call Andrew and see if there are any seats left?”

“Sure, I’ll give him a buzz.”

The man got up and walked little ways away from us, holding his hand to his ear as he made his phone call.

“Do you live in London?” His wife asked me. I told her I did, and we chatted about the city, its differences, its flaws; her husband and son lived in a flat off the Gloucester road and I felt a pang of unreasonable shame as I told her I lived in East London. I was so conscious of my pink hair, my heavy clothes so ready to combat spilt drinks in a dirty bar, the acrid slap of 3 am cigarette smoke from a house party in a Hackney squat. Her son looked so clean and clever, with his dog brown mushroom hair and his expensive trainers, as clean and plumped as pool toys. I felt like a stray that had wandered into a living room at Christmas. Her husband returned and snapped his flip phone shut as he sat down.

“Well! I’ve managed to snag you a seat with us on the little plane that takes us to Martha’s Vineyard from the airport.”

My mouth hung open.

“You’ve paid for me to go on a plane with you?” I thought quickly of the numbers in my bank account, knowing they weren’t even triple digits.

His wife smiled at me. “It’s no trouble, really.” The man looked at his watch again.

“Looks like we’ve got at least another three hours here, I’m going to get a coffee, anybody want anything?”

His son continued to quietly bash at the controls of his Game Boy. I shook my head slowly, “No thank you.”

I couldn’t believe how quickly my circumstances had altered so exceptionally. His wife took out her book and a small pair of reading glasses from her purse. I stared out the window, at the planes that moved bovine slow, thoughtfully lazing in circles until they suddenly roared and rushed down the runway, lumbering unsteadily then fluid as birds into the sky. I will never understand what made that family show such shocking and easy kindness to me that day. And I will never underestimate or doubt the abject kindness of strangers, and more importantly human beings.
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