December 3rd 2012
“Final boarding call for flight 1372 to Charlotte, North Carolina”
Renee looked at her boarding pass. Shit.
Flight 1372 was departing at 12:59pm sharp. It was now 12:38pm.
She took off >> sprinting towards terminal 6, beelining for Gate C30 in the La Guardia airport. She must’ve lost track of time. Last thing she remembers was sitting at a nearby cafe sipping on an overpriced lemonade playing a film role of her recently unraveled relationship through her exhausted mind. It had only been a two months and 8 days, you see, but it all seemed so fresh. Fresh enough to seep into even the most joyous conversations. Fresh enough to make her twirl the sentimental bracelet on her wrist with each idle moment. Fresh enough to make her miss her flight back home. Well. Almost.
She skated into C30 her hair falling victim to the stale air that coursed through it as she desperately made it to the gate.
“You’re just in time” The flight attendant said.
Renee gave a smile of relief and did a light jog to the plane.
26 steps later she was at the front of the aircraft. Squeezing by each passing seat. Her ticket read Seat 7B.
And as she shuffled passed each row
She scanned her potential company for the next 2 hours and 2 minutes.
Please not the man with the love handles overflowing to the seat next to him.
Oh for the love of God, not the angry baby screaming nonsensical things.
The man in the aisle row? That’s already asleep? No thanks. Not really not in the mood for a bathroomless 2 hours.
7B. Here it is!
There she was. Standing there in her cream lace dress as her jet black hair cascaded down her salmon blazer.
And there he was. In 7C. Chestnut brown hair neatly swept to the side. Rich blue button down with a patch on the left sleeve that read P-e-….something paired with neatly pressed khaki pants. He was impeccably handsome with a heart melting gaze that shone through his crystal blue eyes, and a debonair smile ready to charm the salmon blazer off of her. Which he did.
“This can’t be my seat.” she thought to herself. She triple checked her ticket. And then one more time after that to be sure. Sure enough 7B was next to 7C. Who sat a man. With crystal blue eyes, and debonair smile.
She quickly took her seat and looked down. Say nothing. Do nothing. Put your things away. Renee nervously began stuffing her belongings underneath the seat in front of her when she heard a faint
Shit. She s l o w l y turned her head upwards to seat 7C and quickly realized that conversation would be simply unescapable in such close quarters.
“H-h-i” She stuttered and continued to shuffle with her belongings.
She had stowed her belongings as much as they could have possible been stowed. She was every flight attendants pride and joy. And it was now time to face the handsome man in the rich blue button down for the duration of the flight. She sat up. Pressed her back against the seat and stared straight ahead. And then she heard a faint –
“So. Where are you coming from? Where ya headed?”
She turned her head. Face still pressed against the headrest. Why did she have to wear her glasses today? She looked much better without her glasses. At least she always thought so.
“I like your glasses by the way.”
“Thank you. I um. I’m coming from New York. I was there for opera auditions for a few days. Heading back home to Louisiana now. Have a connecting flight in Charlotte…you?”
“Coming home after 27 months actually!” He turned his left arm from the window to face Renee, “See this patch?” It read P-e-a-c-e C-o-r-p-s. “That’s where I’ve been. In Africa actually. But I haven’t seen my family in a while so I’m coming home for a bit. Sorry, I’m being rude. My name is -“
This didn’t make any sense. It didn’t feel right, almost. Sure she had been with Kenneth for 5 years. And yes they had split just 2 months and 8 days ago. But. Was it possible to be attracted to someone else? To find someone else physically attractive, she means. Was it wrong?
Oh great now he’s talking about feeding starving children. And I love it.
Wait shit. What was his name?
To her unintentional surprise the man in the rich blue button down had a tendency to speak in third person and she zoned back in with perfect timing.
“So then my teacher said ‘Daniel, how did you possibly misspell the world FIELD during the spelling bee? That’s your last name for christs sake! Needless to say my 3rd grade teacher was less than pleased with my academic achievements haha…good times…”
Renee gave another nervous laugh with a slight hint of relief that she could finally put a name to the impeccably handsome face and crystal blue eyes.
She could tell he was nervous too. Blotting out any lingering silence with a filler laugh, slight smile or a “sooooo.”
“Sooo. these opera auditions,” he continued. “Tell me about them.”
And so she did. Told him that she had been training for years. Been flying to and from New York City for auditions for any fleeting chance of making those dreams come true. Might as well, you know? Can’t say she didn’t try. And no no, she wasn’t staying at a hotel every time. With her friend Olive. A childhood friend she had been friends with for years…And how about him? What was Africa like?
And so he told her what Africa was like. What it was like to live there. To really live there. And she found herself entranced with not just his smile, his neatly swept hair or his irresistible speech of saving the world, but with the relief that maybe infectious personalities and strong-willed souls do in fact exist outside of unraveling relationships.
The flight attendant came around, “Would you like something to drink?” They both ordered a ginger ale and proceeded to pull out the sky mall magazine in which Daniel began pin pointing every single animal item on each page. But only because she mentioned 3 topics prior briefly that she liked animals. They both made fun of the Lord of the Rings page until Renee stopped him 8 jokes later just to say
“Okay hey listen, I…may have seen all the movies 3 times, read all the books, had a poster shrine in my closet when I was fifteen, and had a fake ring to rule them all…on a necklace that I wore….every day”
He looked at her blankly as his left hand slowly gravitated towards his tattered messenger bag.
“Well. I wasn’t going to say anything but…” He pulled out this:
“You can have it if you want actually. I just got done reading it.”
Her eyes lit up. She snatched the book and began to read it immediately, until a palm was placed over the black printed words. It was his.
“Well you can’t read it now. I’ve only got 39 minutes left with you. And I like talking…will you still talk with me?”
And so she did. Very willingly so. And they flavored the air with laughter and charm and at one point he even told her that he too, was fresh out of a 3 year relationship. About 3 weeks ago and it was rough but this was nice actually, he was smiling and enjoying himself. And he wondered if that was normal. And if that was okay.
Renee’s response was interrupted by the flight attendant on the intercom that said
“Ladies and gentleman in preparation for landing, please put your seats in the upright position and place your tray tables upright in the locked position against the seat in front of you. The captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign so please remain seated and turn off all electronic devices. We will be landing shortly.”
He looked at her
And she looked at him
And they savored the last 12 minutes of conversation before flight 1372 released the wheels for landing. The captain turned off the fasten seatbelt sign. Everyone got up. Except for them.
Suddenly the two of them both heard a voice from the gentleman behind them. The one with the overlapping lovehandles in the seat next to him. And he said “I’ll be upset if you two don’t keep in contact. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed two people hit it off like that…ever.”
They both smiled.
Eventually the train of carry ons and restless passengers exited the aircraft. And they walked and talked for another 33 minutes…in the wrong direction…until Renee heard over the intercom
“Final boarding call for flight 663 to Baton Rouge, Louisiana”
Renee looked at her boarding pass. Shit.
Flight 663 was departing at 4:52. It was now 4:33.
She was about to sprint off but…stayed. Just for a minute more.
“So I guess this is it…” she said
And then she heard a faint “Sooo hey here’s my e-mail address. I um. Renee, I’d love to keep talking to you. You’re really great.”
She gently took the card out of his hands.
“Final boarding call for flight 663 to Baton Rouge, Louisiana”
And gave him a hug goodbye. And never looked back once. Just so she wouldn’t be tempted to stay.
He e-mailed her.
And she e-mailed him back.
And at one point he even asked her “what do you really know about me, Renee?”
And she emailed him back this:
You’re Daniel Field. Spelling is not your forté. As we learned from the spelling bee. (you were super vague and said something about being deaf as a kid and never told me why) You and your family love miniature dachshunds (that word seriously sucks to spell). One of the things you miss most about America is the cheese so I’m guessing you’re not lactose intolerant. West Virginia is your home and it’s annoyingly far away. But I guess not as far as Africa…You read. A lot. You also gave your email address to a completely strange girl, so you haven’t learned much from all the PSAs about not contacting strangers. And what do you know about me?
You’re Renee Lucette. You’re an aspiring opera singer who has a shameless affinity for cats. You prefer Pepsi to Coke but if you’re at a party and there’s only coke available. You’re down to be a team player. You really enjoy floral clothing and hate the name Derbina….You recently got out of a 5 year relationship, kind of like me. And maybe like me you’ve kind of realized that it’s been kind of nice. To know that there are other fish in the sea. Especially when you always thought there was only one. Thanks for being that reminder for me. And thanks for sitting next to me on that plane.
A few days later Daniel headed back to Africa, to finish the remainder of his Peace Corps days. But promised to keep in touch. Really, he did. And to this day has been. But before he left Renee was able to squeeze a response e-mail. One that wasn’t interrupted by a flight attendant over the intercom. One that said Hey! Just so you know, you were just in time. Did you know that? Just in time to remind me that shameless flirting, physical attractions, good conversations and a genuine connection are the perfect reminder that there really are other fish in the sea. And it might be that fish. Or it might not be. But either way, how great it is to know that not only are there other fish, but different ones, maybe even better ones. And so thank you as well, for being that reminder that I didn’t even know I needed.