Ten minutes later they were sitting side-by-side chewing on eight-dollar airport croissants, Paul and Young Paul, Young Paul who, to Paul’s resentment, had not offered to pay for his own pastry.
Every now and then Paul would steal glances at Young Paul when he thought Young Paul wasn’t paying attention. They looked like different people, Paul observed. Like they had sprung from different ancestors and worshipped contradictory deities. Maybe this was what they called adaptation. After all, Young Paul hadn’t even seen America yet, still lived with his parents. Their parents. Whatever. His acne was terrifying.
“Who’s your friend?”
“Who’s the friend that you’re waiting for?”
“You don’t know him. I met him in college.”
“Oh. Are you a little early?”
“He’s a little late.”
“Oh. Are you just going to wait here until he shows up?”
“His phone doesn’t work internationally. I can’t let myself miss him.”
“Why? Is he as cool as Jonas?
“Jonas? Jonas goes to exhausting lengths to make you feel inadequate so that he can delude himself into thinking he’s satisfied with the kind of individual he turned out to be. He’s a broken human being.”
“So… You’re not friends with Jonas anymore?”
Paul shrugged. “Spoiler alert.”
It wasn’t that Paul didn’t like Young Paul, he just didn’t get a good vibe from him. Young Paul rubbed him the wrong way.
Over the course of the day they watched the intervaled release of people before them. It was mostly pale Scandinavians, but there would be the occasional East or Southeast Asian and each time Paul would be charged with the urge to run up to them and rattle their shoulders and demand to know exactly where they were from. The hope was for a connection bigger than either of them but the first time he actually did it, the tourist stammered, “Ci—Ci—Cincinnati!” and the second time, the woman informed him through frightened tears that she worked for the Danish Transport Authority.
Eventually Paul gave up. He had been refracted off so many surfaces that he could no longer say exactly where he was from. He had no idea how his molecules looked or what language it was that they responded to.