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By B.E.

Ok, so not the most original question. In fact, it’s been posed many times, most notably – in my humble opinion – by the R&B quartet En Vogue of the mid 90’s and even though they recited Webster’s Dictionary on the track, even they were left disappointed with their findings.

Tonight, I sit on a plane. I sit in coach. That first row of coach where you have slightly more legroom and a front row seat to how the other half lives (as seen through the thread bare curtain that separates the first class haves and have-nots). 

I fly quite a bit and seem to have a knack for being sat next to senior citizens. Don’t get me wrong, I love the elderly (more than most), but there is an implied reverence given to those who have lived on the planet decades longer than you that means arm rest priority and acceptance of personal space boundaries being crossed. 

Tonight, when approaching my seat I saw just what I was up against. Not only were my row-mates old, they were ancient, and foreign! The man and woman seated next to me spoke, from what I could tell, no English, and seemed to be from the Eastern Block, so much so that they insisted on carrying all of their earthly belongings on their laps. 

It was clear that the two were married, and it seemed safe to assume that an audition for the newly wed game was not in their near future, but in their very distant past.  

I was irritated with the constant knocking of my elbow and the overlap of winter coat on what was clearly the territory of the inhabitant of seat 10D, but as I said, these people were old, probably survived wars, so I was cutting them some slack.  

It’s no secret that I’m a cynical woman, not helped by my living in New York City and working like a crazy person, but even I have those moments, where I have to stop and take a moment to be in awe at the beauty of life.

With recycled fuel-tainted air in my nostrils and 10 cents worth of Delta Airlines pretzels in my tummy, the age-old question: What is love? was answered.

The woman next to me, with an unfortunate blue (yes blue) mole, covering good percentage of the left side of her nose, took her surprisingly youthful hand and began to stroke the back of her husband’s neck. A simple gesture, devoid of the passion of youthful lust, but fraught with the comfort and understanding of real love. 

As she ran her fingers over his shorn hair, only slightly thinning at the crown, I couldn’t help but smile. For a moment, the heavy winter coat she had draped over my right thigh disappeared and I realized I was in the presence of love.  All I could do was smile.

Sitting, wedged uncomfortably in the back of a 6-hour flight with no food, no entertainment and a case of the sniffles, this babushka reached out to offer some simple comfort to the man she loves – now that is love! 

B.E. is a photographer and aspiring freelance writer residing in New York City.

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