Boban Marjanovic stood at his gate in Philadelphia International Airport, keeping an eye on the long airport down which hundreds of travelers were coming and going. Vaguely, he could feel the stares of his fellow Dallas-bound passengers on him. He wished he could sit down to reduce his apparent height, but none of the seats at the gate were large enough to accommodate him. Undoubtedly, the starers were wondering if the monstrously tall human in front of them would even fit on the plane, and if he did, what his seatmate would think about the situation.
Boban had already taken that into account. He had booked two adjacent first-class seats for himself so that he wouldn’t inconvenience anybody. It was either that or charter a private jet, and while he was fairly rich from his NBA contracts, he wasn’t yet “private jet” rich.
“Attention passengers for flight 5831, service to Dallas,” the gate-desk attendant spoke into her intercom. “We’ll be looking to board in ten minutes once the crew gives us the OK.”
Boban nervously leaned over to get a full view of the hallway leading from the security checkpoint. With each minute that passed, the chances of seeing the person he most wanted to see became more remote. He pulled out his phone and, for the third time, verified that his text message had been sent successfully. In the message were his gate and departure time. It was all correct.
Maybe their friendship had only been in the context of their status as longtime teammates, Boban thought bitterly to himself. Maybe they had never been “friends” in the truest sense of the word. That was the reality of the NBA, wasn’t it? To have relationships constantly formed and sundered, often in the span of months. Maybe his only true friends, the ones who would meet him at the airport in the minutes before his departure, were at home in Serbia.
“Boarding group one is welcome to board,” said the attendant’s voice.
How foolish he had been to think that their friendship had meant anything, Boban thought. What was he doing, getting his hopes up like that? Nobody would say goodbye to him as he left Philly. Not even a friend whose companionship had been instrumental in acclimating Boban to the league of an unfamiliar foreign country. Sadly, Boban took a break from his watchfulness to open the Instagram app on his phone. There were so many pictures of the two of them together, sharing laughs and sharing life, but now, those joyous occasions seemed phony. He scrolled through a number of them, shaking his head, before closing the app in disgust.
“Boarding groups two and three, welcome aboard.”
That was Boban’s group, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave just yet. There was some sliver of hope within him that refused to be extinguished. A sliver of hope that still believed in the enduring power of true friendship. He continued to gaze out into the bustling throng of travelers, not even noticing now the amount of stares he was getting in return. There was only one person Boban was looking for, but each passing person that wasn’t him dragged Boban’s spirit slightly lower.
The attendant’s voice spoke again. “Final boarding call for flight 5831, service to Dallas. Paging passengers Clark, party of two, passenger…Marjanovic…paging passengers Clark and Marjanovic, final boarding for flight 5831.”
Despite the attendant’s botching of his last name, Boban new perfectly well that he needed to get on the plane now. His heart was filled with despair as he turned from the hallway, his boarding pass in hand, and got in line. A minute later, he was handing over his boarding pass to be scanned.
“Have a nice flight,” the attendant said with a cheeriness that Boban felt would be forever unattainable for him. He mumbled a “thanks” and walked towards the jetbridge, deliberately making his steps slow, just in case. Just in case…
“BOBAN! BOBAN!!!” yelled out a familiar voice. A friendly voice. Boban turned around to see somebody running towards him at full speed. He instinctively put out his arms and caught the man in a hug.
“I didn’t think you’d show up,” Boban said. He suddenly felt like he was near tears.
“You kidding? You think I’d miss my best friend leaving for a new city?” Tobias Harris said, loosening himself enough from the hug to look up at the much taller man. “TSA was being a bunch of dicks. I barely caught you.”
The attendant tutted. “Final boarding.”
“One more time?” Tobias asked, turning up the volume on his phone.
Boban knew what was coming next. He nodded. “One more time.”
Tobias pressed play to start the song. Their song. And they danced. For minutes, they danced. Ignoring the reminders of the attendant and the amused stares of onlookers, they danced. When it was finally over, the two hugged again, and Boban boarded his flight knowing that, no matter which cities they were in or which teams they played for, the two of them would be friends forever.