There are an average of 60,000 people en route, by air, at any one time in the United States. When you travel by yourself, you’re bound to meet some of them. When you’re with someone, there is no outreach. But my solitude is evidently an invitation.
At JFK, I had an hour before my flight took off and, naturally, went straight for a cold one…for the start of a vacation occurs with the lone beer at the airport bar. There I walked to an empty table, and didn’t yet put my bags down when Kathleen and Matthew Gleason from Florida introduced themselves – a lovely couple on their way to Belgium to visit their 50 year old-son and his family. They ordered hand-cut potato chips and put them on my table for me to eat (“Help yourself, doll.”). We sat there, learning about each other for the next 40 minutes, and when I realized my flight was boarding, I hastily put away my novel that never got opened. Kathleen said to me as I hastened my goodbyes:
“Are you taken?”
“No. No, I’m not.”
“Leave him behind.”
I was about to pretend I didn’t know what she was referring to. But instead, I swallowed hard and said:
“Leave him behind, don’t waste your time. You’re absolutely delightful, and someone is going to snatch you up right quick.”
Only a complete stranger can say that – and evidently I can be read like a book. I liked to think of myself as mysterious and enigmatic. Ah well.
While waiting at the gate on my return trip, there was a man sitting cross-legged on the floor by the window using his laptop. I sat in disbelief that this 80-something year old could still sit on the floor in such a pose as if he were a teenager. He looked like a veteran… the haircut, stance, demeanor. Then I realized what this tough man was wearing… a navy sweatshirt with a rainbow and a heart that said “Miracles Do Happen.” I trust the wisdom of his years, so I believe him.
Onboard, I was in a more somber mood…if somber means discreetly wiping quiet tears from your eyes so no one sees you. I realized this was the first time in my life I had no desire to come home. I used to get so excited flying back into NYC – ah, civilization, where everyone walks at a decent pace and things get done, with no small talk or fanfair. Looking out the window at the water, and being forewarned of turbulence ahead, I wished for a moment that the plane would go down. I did. I wished that…it surprised even me. There was a moment where my heart said “Please go down – Anything to not be this sad anymore.” but my brain immediately realized how selfish that was…because I didn’t want Neil, the racecar driver who hadn’t been on a plane “since ‘84, can yer believe it??” and the kind med student who spilled her water all over me to be affected because of my moments of weakness. So the thought went away as quickly as it came…but it was there and I think it’s important to acknowledge that.
Now, back home, another trip done, and no more tickets purchased. I must plan my July trip to San Francisco, Big Sur, and Carmel. And maybe a solo journey to Copenhagen at some point this summer. It’s not the romantic getaway it was meant to be, but I’ve learned that the only constant in life is change. I’m rolling with the punches, turning the other cheek, taking it all in stride, and every other idiom that comes to mind. This is my life, and I’m the only one that gets to determine where it is that it takes me.