My brother found me outside the airport. She and I were tucked neatly beside one another, puffing our cigarettes and staring at the taxi traffic and the herds of people rushing around searching for their rides.
Boston, MA. Logan Airport.
He opened the door and said: Are you ready to go? He seemed to be in a rush. He was always in a rush.
I tapped out my cigarette. I stared in her eyes for a moment. I barely noticed my brother’s intrusion. Then she leaned in and gave me a tight, satisfying hug.
And she was off.
To her connecting flight.
To rural California.
To grow and sell marijuana crop.
This was the hippie chick I had met at the airport.
It was a few days before Thanksgiving. My brother had invited me to his house for Thanksgiving dinner.
I had to fly to Boston from Rutland, VT. I got a ride to the airport earlier than I would have liked, because that was the only time I could get a ride; but it’s okay, I like to be early to most places/// It gives me time to collect myself, and I get to work on my writing and I get to catch up on my reading—all alone. Like the way it usually was, for me….
I checked in at the main desk and lugged my bags upstairs. The Rutland airport was small, which meant you had to hold on to all your checked luggage until you passed through airport security, which wouldn’t be till after your plane had unloaded all of its previous passengers.
There was a large sitting area on the second floor, complete with couches and TVs and a bar and a large floor to ceiling, wall to wall, window that looked out on the barren runway. Rutland had only one plane that flew three times a day, to Boston and back, and the runway looked like a sheer wasteland of abandoned machinery and there was a slight fog that festered over the emptiness.
I was the only one there. I had the place to myself. I went and ordered a coffee at the bar. Sat down on a couch. Pulled a book from my bag and began reading it.
Moments later I saw this girl in her early to mid-20s rolling a suitcase passed the bar and finding a seat a little ways down from me.
I don’t know what it was about her, in her flannel shirt and Birkenstock jeans and rugged Timberland boots, with her long, messy blond hair and slightly freckled face. Something about her drew me in. I know what you’re thinking, I used to fall in love with every pretty girl I saw, so this could have just been one of those moments, but nah, she was different, in her own hippy kind of way.
And maybe, just maybe, I could read her a story I wrote…. Nah, she’d think I was crazy. I had an hour and a half before the flight came and so why not? why not take a chance?
I walked over on cautious footing, with all my luggage in tow, a little worried about how she might react. I didn’t like being rejected, even though rejection was as commonplace to me as anything else. So I guess I was used to it. But riding one hour on a tiny jet plane beside a girl to whom I had made an ass of myself would be rather awkward and so maybe I shouldn’t try. I started to turn around when I guess she noticed me. It wasn’t hard. We were the only ones in this large room and I wasn’t heading toward the bar and the bathrooms were downstairs and I stood there gripping my bags, in the dead center of the room, halfway between where I had previously been sitting and where this pretty girl was smiling at me, and—--
I said: Can I read you a story I wrote?
Her smile grew and she nodded and there was a twinkle in her eye that flicked and ebbed and then it was gone.
And she said: Sure.
I walked the rest of the way and sat down beside her. I propped my bags in the seat on the other side of me. Told her my name.
She told me her own///it was Katie.
I told her this was a story I wrote just a few days ago called “An American Beauty.”
When I got to the end she was still smiling and she told me it read like a rap song.
I chuckled. Yeah, I said. I wrote it in a stream of conscious.
We talked for a while. She was on her way to California to grow marijuana. I said cool. I told her I wished I could do something like that. I was just going to my brother’s for Thanksgiving dinner.
She said: It sounds like you’ve had plenty of adventures and I’m sure you’ll have plenty more.
Maybe you could go to California some time and we’d see each other again.
I kept smiling.
I know, we’ve only known each other for a few minutes but I was smitten with her, and she seemed to dig me too. I gave her my book Derelict America. We sat there and watched our plane land and we went downstairs and crossed through airport security together. We sat in the flimsy seats and I noticed our legs were touching. Our arms too.
When it was time to board the plane I was still smiling and she was dreamily nice to me and there was no awkwardness either; I felt very comfortable around her. I probably stunk of BO and had streams of sweat oozing down the sides of my face, but she didn’t care. We sat in the tiny jet plane, leg to leg, arm to arm, and she rested her head on my shoulder as the plane took off.
We touched down in Boston an hour later and we both really needed a cigarette. My brother was texting me to ask where I was, but I didn’t answer; I was lost in the moment, dancing on impulse, excited but sad because I knew this feeling was fleeting and as soon as I responded to my brother’s text, the moment would be gone and I’d have to go.
We exited the airport and found the smoking spot and we lit cigarettes and stood side by side, smoking, laughing, and watching the crowds.
My brother burst through the door and said: We gotta go now.
I said to him: This is Katie.
He looked at me like he didn’t care.
He said: Really, we gotta go.
I tapped out my cigarette and turned to her. I said bye. Started to walk away.
She grabbed me and embraced me for a few seconds and whispered in my ear: Goodbye.
Who was this angel?
I pulled away from her.
I went in the door and watched through the window as she stood out there finishing her cigarette the whole way until the wall ended and I was going up the escalator and walking to my brother’s car in the parking lot.