by Madison Stevens ’19
She took two steps off the plane and knew she was home. The smell of metal and hand sanitizer filled her nostrils as she sauntered out of Terminal B and down to Baggage Claim C at Logan Airport. The bags slipped out one after another and onto the circular conveyer belt; it reminded her of when she was little and wished more than anything she could hop on a duffle and ride it with the rest of the bags, bringing her back to whatever destination she had returned from.
Not this time. This time there wasn’t anything she wanted more than an iced coffee from Dunks and her dog Sarge curled up at her feet while she watched Tom Brady tomorrow at 1 p.m. She had no desire to return to where she came from.
A man came to stand beside her, tilted his head slightly forward in a nod as he gave her a soft smile that originated from his eyes—he reminded her of her father. He asked her all of the usual questions, to which she replied with all the usual answers and a smile to let him know she wasn’t too battered.
She turned to her right to see a family of five, two little blonde boys teasing their younger sister with miniature airplanes and green army figurines. One made gunshot noises with his lips, and it sent a small chill down her spine.
She redirected her attention to the kid’s parents. The mother’s eyes were darting around the carousel looking for their last bag while the father was apparently calling an Uber XL for the family’s return home. She imagined they were going home to a white-picket-fenced house with an American flag hanging next to their door; the vision caused her to smile and bring her hand up to the chain around her neck, a habit she had picked up about nine months ago.
She felt a vibration in her pocket and took her phone out to reveal that her younger brother Luke had texted her wondering when she would arrive home from the airport. Her fingers danced across her screen like rapid fire as she replied, “Be home soon. Remember, don’t tell Mom. Love, Millie.” She lifted her head yet again to the carousel looking for her green bag that should’ve been out by now.
A bell rang intensely overhead and Millie flinched and looked around in a panic, only to realize it was just the warning that all of the bags had been emptied from the plane. She continued to crane her neck looking for the shades of green that should be circulating around amidst the black, navy, and occasional hot pink suitcases.
She felt a tug on her pants and looked down to see it was one of the blonde boys with big brown eyes looking up at her. He raised his green army man with a smile and said to her, “You look like him. My dad told me to come say thank you for your service.”
All the blood instantly rushed to Private First Class Millie Johnson’s face as she looked down at her camouflaged combat uniform and caught the chocolate eyes looking up at her with pride.
This is why she does what she does, so that those big brown eyes can close without a worry in the world when he goes to sleep at night in the confines of that white picket fence.
“You’re welcome,” she said, with one hand on her dog tags.