We Met on a Plane
He shifted in his seat, rearranging his legs and jerking his head looking in different directions, making me nervous as we taxied across the tarmac. It was my first time traveling solo since the breakup, and I was happy to be going somewhere she would have hated.
The way he fidgeted made me long to reach over and put a calming hand on his bouncing knee. I wanted to steady his hand from its dance between adjusting his hat and cradling a sweater. As I pretended to read a book, I imagined the conversation we would have if I asked about his jittery behavior.
But I didn’t ask. Instead, I snuck furtive glances at the bearded face and hazel eyes. Usually, I found beards disgusting, but his was different, distinguished. The flight was just a couple of hours, but with each minute more questions about this Spaniard flooded my mind until I felt like they would come spilling out in a flood of nosy nonsense.
His tension seemed to ease the longer we were in the air as mine mounted. He opened a conversation with a question about the book I was holding but not really reading. As we spoke, I felt a sigh of relief and a cord of energy twisting between us. During the time after the landing when the air is full of anticipation for the destination, we chatted easily.
He was handsome and charming, and I felt my body melting; something cold inside growing smaller and relieving some pressure inside my chest. I said goodbye and nice meeting you, a bit prematurely I knew but I wanted to make sure he saw how I felt in my eyes. I was expecting never to see him again, but I was grateful for the conversation and warmth that came with it.
Upon disembarking, I smiled remembering how I had noticed him in the airport with his small red backpack, travel towel and flip-flops in the outside pockets. Amongst all the people yammering on about their holidays in Torremolinos and Fuengirola, I had been curious about him with his kind eyes and gentle smile.
I found myself boarding a bus between the plane and the terminal and of course he was right behind me. There was a vibrating tautness between us, and I wanted to be as close to him as possible, arms and legs brushing as they did on the flight.
I didn’t understand this warming sensation, and I didn’t exactly want it to continue, it was too confusing. I was exhausted, as it was nearing midnight. We talked across the aisle and said our second goodbyes upon entering passport control, as I headed to the non-European side. After the legal formalities, we crossed paths again, and he wished me a good trip while I was using the ATM.
I saw him crossing the street as I boarded the bus, but there was nothing left to say. I sat thinking of the journey ahead. I was a little nervous about getting off on the right stop to walk to my hostel at such a late hour and I studied the map assuring I knew what I was doing. When I looked up, there he was again. The driver was explaining in a thick Scottish accent that he couldn’t ride without cash, and suddenly I was on my feet holding out five pounds, the bus was leaving after all.
He didn’t hesitate for long, and my heart pounded a bit as he squeezed into the seat next to me and handed over the 50 pence the driver had returned. We both sat with our backpacks on our laps, and I wondered if he was as aware as I was of each time our bodies touched.
When he asked for my number so he could repay me, I insisted it was unnecessary but felt my palms sweating as he typed my name and number into his mobile. This time when I said goodbye, I intended to see him again the next day.
I slept fitfully in a crowded hostel, and as Friday passed pleasantly with a new friend, I hated how frequently I looked at my phone. When I finally went to sleep that night, I thought about the different reasons I hadn’t heard from him, and I considered that he wasn’t real. Maybe my mind had invented him to trick me into feeling something for someone other than my ex-partner. My mind is quite deceitful, especially when I’m tired.
Late that night, I was staring at the shadows on the floor and listening to thirteen other people sleeping and struggling to sleep in the stuffy room. I decided that regardless of what happened, I would believe in him, Fere, or Fede, I couldn’t even remember his name. And I wouldn’t forget the feeling he gave me.
After another day in the city, I knew our time was up. I was heading west, and he had different plans. I searched faces all day looking for those honey green eyes, but nothing came close. On the bus, just 20 minutes after I had left the city, he sent a message.
He seemed genuinely sad he hadn’t texted sooner so we could have met up. I felt an incredible rush of feelings. Stories started forming in my head of all the different ways we might reunite. We chatted on and off, but I never let the expectation form that we would meet. What was astonishing to me was the rush of feelings and anticipation that had been created by such tiny interactions.
I felt alive again, emotionally and sensually in a way that had been turned off for a very long time. I felt an attraction toward a masculine soul for the first time in my years in Europe. I felt the end of my commitment to an almost seven-year relationship, and it was exactly what I needed.