I’m crying in the airport. Just returning from a trip, feeling a bit overwhelmed with heartbreak and worry, it is nice to be back in familiar Vienna. I know how to get to the S-Bahn station for a train to the city. At the ticket machine, tears stream down my face. It’s out of character for me to weep openly in public, but it’s also very hard to keep your belongings upright, dig for Euro change, and mop up tears at the same time–so I just let ‘em roll.
A young Spanish guy interrupts me. He asks in scraps of English how to get a ticket for the city center, how to use the machine if he can’t speak German. Though it’s normal for people to stop me, talk to me, I thought that today tears will deter conversation and allow me to wallow in peace. I try to wipe away my tears with the back of my hand as I show him how he can use the machine in English, and when he doesn’t take over, I help him through the prompts. He feeds money in and I start to tug my suitcase away when a woman halts me.
She wants to go to Slovenia. Slovenia is distinctly not in the Vienna city center. I have no clue how to get her to Slovenia with the local trains, surely she needs a regional train, surely she needs someone with more information. She insists. I suggest asking up at the airport information counter. She persists. I have to help, she keeps saying that I have to help.
Finally, another woman arrives and knows how she can get there. The Spaniard–still hanging around–lets me lead him to the proper platform for our mutual train. We’ve just missed the last one, “What a pity.” He says with the glee of being able to say something pithy in a foreign tongue. We wait together, chatting on the topics we can manage. He wants to ask me about U.S. politics and we quickly learn this is out of the reach of our common vocabulary. So we stick to his girlfriend, his family, and the beautiful things we’ve seen in our travels.
I tell him a few stops before our destination, “You know, I was pretty sad when you stopped me.”
He laughs, and I believe he puts it this way: “Yes, you were crying. But so! I needed that you helped.”