They had to say goodbye in front of security.
But because it was a small airport, all the check-in desks and the control points were in the same hall, so he could follow her with his eyes as she set her bag on the conveyor belt, walked th
rough the metal detector, showed her boarding pass, and was led to the plane, which was standing on the runway right outside the glass door.
She kept on looking back at him and waving. On the steps up to the plane she turned one last time, laughing and crying, and laid her hand on her heart. When she’d disappeared into the plane, he waved at the little windows, but didn’t know if she could see him or not. Then the engines were started, the propellers turned, the plane began to roll, faster and faster, and took off.
His flight wasn’t leaving for another hour. He got himself a cup of coffee and a newspaper and sat down on a bench. Since they had met, he hadn’t read a newspaper anymore or sat alone over a cup of coffee. After a quarter of an hour, during which he still hadn’t read a single line or swallowed a single mouthful, he thought, I’ve forgotten how to be alone. It was a thought he liked.
- from SUMMER LIES, a new story collection by Bernhard Schlink, author of THE READER, out now from Pantheon Books