AT THE AIRPORT
Ryan arrived at the airport an hour before her flight was scheduled to land. He didn’t pay attention to much of anything on the drive, indeed, not noticing an elderly woman ignoring a stop sign and nearly colliding with his car. He kept on his way, oblivious. He feared being late and rushed at every point that day, somehow imagining he’d show up only to find her having had arrived early and left again.
He parked his car and taking with him a notebook and the flowers he’d purchased for her, made his way into the terminal. He’d been there many times and seemingly without trying made his way through the airport towards the arrivals terminal, his eyes focused on the gray carpet as he walked, ignoring the bustle around him.
He stopped in the waiting area and put his flowers down on the row of seats next to where he stood. He kept his eye on the clock and on the board, which displayed incoming flights.
'Gate four,' he whispered to himself.
His fingers were busy, picking at a half-ripped belt loop in his jeans, his nervousness showing. He'd gotten his hair cut that morning and remembered to shave. He felt as good as he could expect to feel, the crispness of his pressed shirt and new pants reassuring.
He glanced at the flowers resting on the chair, which he'd bought at the florist on the way to the airport. Twelve pink carnations, adorned with wild flowers he'd picked outside his apartment.
He smiled, thinking again about her. Closing his eyes, her features appeared in his mind, and he imagined the feel of her lips against his. After all those months, six to be precise, he would finally meet her. The talking and promising to meet would be at an end; soon he would see her in the flesh. His mind felt pregnant with thoughts, one crowding upon the back of the other, each asking for attention. Would it be the same? True, he thought, you can know someone from their words, but would he feel desire towards her, and she him? What words would he say? He didn’t know the answers to these questions and the number of them in his mind left him feeling disoriented.
All those moments together, the hours of talking would meet in one moment, the wait almost over. Sweat gathered upon his forehead and on the palms of his hands.
A bell sounded, announcing the arrival of flight 102, from Seattle. He opened his eyes and watched the passengers enter the waiting area, seeking out love ones, lovers, friends.
He watched a pretty blonde girl leap into a man's arms, her father, and wished she would run to meet him in a similar way.
'I can't wait to see you,' she'd said. He kept hearing the words in his mind.
'When I lay down at night, you are all that I can think of, imagine,' he'd responded. He wondered if those words conveyed how he felt. He hoped she understood and wished with all his heart she felt the same desire for him. But, could he know for sure?
He checked the clock, twenty minutes to wait. He sat down and opened his notebook, an idea crawling around in the recesses of his mind.
You, with pleated plaid skirt
and a school girl heart.
Come down the blueberry hill
into my arms
for the last time
death waits in the air,
a putrid rotten incense
and sticks in my clothes.
ice in my veins, I grow cold.
you are a stranger, a dandy
humming show tunes, pigtails and all.
and I feel in my heart,
we all go round the mulberry bush
we all fall down.
Ryan closed his notebook, pleased. He smiled and crossed his hands across his lap, the time near. A man wearing a gray suit and carrying a tan overnight bag sat next to him. He studied the man, but did not speak to him, instead content to stay in his thoughts of her. He flipped through his notebook for a moment, but the man next to him interrupted his reading.
‘Whom are you meeting?’ The man asked. The man wore thick glasses and looked to be near fifty years of age.
Ryan didn’t know how to answer. How do I say I’m meeting a girlfriend? He thought to himself.
‘My girl,’ he said.
‘How long has it been since you’ve seen her?’ the man asked.
Ryan gritted his teeth and remained silent. He debated on how to answer the question. He shook his head and sighed deeply, gripping his fingers together tightly.
‘I’ve never actually met her.’
The man looked at him, his eyes wide and shocked behind his thick glasses. He clucked his tongue and wagged his finger at Ryan.
‘This is one of those internet romances, isn’t it?’ The man smiled, pleased with himself.
The man nodded his head, as if he understood everything. Ryan wondered if he understood it himself.
‘I knew of a guy that met a woman he met on the internet. He talked to her for about a year before he saw her for the first time. He lives out in California though, that sort of thing is to be expected out there.’
Ryan gripped the arms of the chair and tried not to speak. He took a deep breath before he responded.
‘And?’ He asked the man.
‘Oh, yes. Well, as I understand it, he married her.’
Ryan laughed and released his grip on the chair. The man stood up to take his leave, gathering his bag in his arms.
‘Good luck to you.’ The man extended his hand. Ryan shook it in silence, watching him make his way through the terminal towards the exit.
He sighed and ran his fingers over his cropped brown hair as he sat down. His toe tapped soundless on the carpet as he watched the clock tick. Four minutes past two. The announcement board gave the information that her flight was on the ground, causing his nervousness to increase. He began biting at his finger nails and tapping his foot more rapidly.
I hope it is the same as it was online.
A bell sounded, announcing flight 450, from New Mexico. He stood, grabbing the flowers off the seat next to him.
Elderly gentlemen holding cane
three young giggling girls, between them trying to discover the meaning of life
a nun, stoic and grumpy
four businessmen in heated discussion walking quick for the exit
grandmother meeting waiting grandchildren, smiles on their faces
middle aged woman greeting with kiss her lover, husband
stewardess, pilot, baggage handlers
Ryan stared at the gray door, as it slowly closed, sealing off the gate from the airport.
He scanned the room, confused, remaining motionless for some minutes. He tried to breathe, but his chest felt tight, the same feeling he used to get when he’d dive deep into the swimming pool at camp to retrieve quarters.
Without a word and a dull smile on his face, he turned and walked out of the terminal, dropping the flowers in a trash receptacle near the eternally revolving exit doors.