The flight attendant spots me standing by my seat hurries up the aisle, a look of anticipated excitement on her face.
“No, no,” I say as I wave her back with a quick glance behind me making sure my girlfriend isn’t approaching.
“Not yet?” questions the attendant breathless from her jog over to me.
“No, no,” I say again. “She is only in the bathroom. Now please leave before she catches on.”
Sitting back in my seat I swear I feel beads of sweat when I brush my brow. I have heard it is impossible to have anxiety and excitement in the same moment, but I have clearly broken that theory. My palms feel the dampness of fear. My heart is racing and there is a stupid grin on my face every time I turn to speak to my girlfriend. A million times today I thought she would guess what was going on and all my planning and romance will be lost. I want the night to be particularly special and with meaning. A story for lovers, a favorite story for our future grandchildren. …tell us again, grandpa echoes in my mind. Less than thirty minutes I will know, did I succeed and will she have me.
Through the fog of my thoughts, dreams and hopes I see her walking back to me smiling and beautiful. I so wonder how I almost missed this amazing woman and grateful fate gave us another chance.
Six months ago I sat in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, a refugee from Michigan, a new transplant to Arizona with a dream job, but no family or friends in the state. While my changes and new life were exciting to me, it had an entirely different meaning for my parents. The reminders of how I had abandoned them flooded every conversation driving the message I needed to be home for family events. And while the desire was there for me to be present at every birthday and milestone, the reality was holidays would be the only option to return. Thanksgiving was the first opportunity since my move, with enough days off to make the trip worthwhile.
Wednesday night, scheduled for the red eye I sat in the Sky Harbor terminal trying to seclude myself with a good book. Around me ran young children, out of control at such a later hour. Parents trying to huddle them together tired faces and shortening tempers becoming evident. And, then there was the ‘talker’, a young woman engaging all around her in lively discussions.
Oh, for God’s sake, a bit of quiet would be good I initially thought. I kept my gaze and attention in my book determined not to look up, determined not to engage where so many have obviously fallen victim. She did have a pleasant laugh, which she expressed quite freely. But I stood my ground, trying harder than ever to understand the few words I managed to read after I became aware of her.
“What do you think?” I heard the question again directed to another of her newly found companions. The first gentlemen either shook his head or didn’t respond. The second gentleman responded, but with not much information.
“I rarely fly into Detroit so I don’t know how well they would clear the runways if the winter storm hits. Hopefully we won’t be late or delayed,” he had responded.
The answer didn’t suit her, and a flutter or questions of the same sort was again expressed from her. Clearly her concern was evident.
Somewhat out of exasperation, and some out of time to do my part, I placed my book in my lap and in my most matter-of-fact voice responded.
“Look, Detroiters are experts at getting snow conditions under control at the airport. It’s a fact of life there, since it does snow during the winter. We won’t be delayed and we won’t be late.”
Looking directly into her face I almost regretted the harsher tone to my voice. Her eyes drew me in, but I couldn’t shake my initial irritation with her, picking up my book I let the moment pass me by.
And as I predicted, the plane was right on time and we melted into history; a brief passing of two people on the way to the same destination.
My parents walked with me to the gate on my return flight. That pre-security time when we all gathered at the gate for our good-byes. My mom hung on to my arm, her words half catching my mind. My thoughts were of Phoenix, getting to my apartment and of work the next day. Mentally I had left Michigan already, emotionally I was torn. Yes, I missed my family, but I had worked and studied hard to get the job I wanted. I hadn’t planned on it being out of state, but when it happened, the chance to start my career was exciting. And I feared if I remained in Michigan there might not be a professional position suited to my interest.
Sitting at the gate, my mother continued her questions of my life. My father’s talk wandered away and I became semi-conscious of his conversation with a woman across from him. It was her laughter that drew me out of my conversation with my mother. I had heard that laugh before, at an early time. I looked over to the young woman and instantly remembered her eyes. The eyes that had so tempted me in Phoenix, the eyes I had turned from.
“You were in Sky Harbor on Wednesday night. We flew out on the same flight,” I commented with a slight tone of a question to my voice. I couldn’t believe she was actually there, sitting again across from me.
“Yes,” she confirmed. “And you were exactly right, the plane was on time. What about tonight’s flight?”
“An hour and half late,” I replied without a clue as to where those words were coming from.
Moments later the announcement came over the paging system confirming my predication.
I’m not sure of all the topics we covered in the time of the delay, but by the time my goodbyes were over with my parents and the passengers were filing on the plane; I was determined to change my seat. Incorporating the help of a flight attendant the exchange of seats occurred and there I was sitting next to her.
Tightening her seat belt, she said to me “looks like we are ready to go.”
“No,” I replied, “another delay is coming.”
And within a few moments my third prediction came true. The pilot announced still another problem and that the mechanics were on it.
I sent a prayer to heaven, a note of thanks I had this chance to continue my time with this increasingly amazing woman. We talked easily on a host of subjects and laughingly came to conclusions as to the proper amount of children to have and the even the best way to grill fish. She had captured my interest in a way no woman had done before. And by the time the plane landed on the the runway at Sky Harbor, I knew my fate, our fate.
It was a wedding in Michigan six months later, which gave me the chance to plan, to dream. When she agreed to attend with me, I knew the first part of my plan was in place. After several attempts through various airlines I found a similar red eye flight to the one we had originally met on. The flight time caused us some debate, couldn’t we fly earlier she had questioned back. I held my ground determined the timing was essential to the success of my plan. Next came the cooperation of the airline. Fortunately the time was such that rules were still a bit relaxed. My request to bring champagne on the flight was still rejected. But romance was in the wind, and the airlines offered to provide a bottle at the opportune moment.
“It is the most romantic thing we have ever heard,” gushed the airline representative. “We can’t wait to hear about it.”
And here we are, moments away from a life I am hoping for, dreaming of. She settles herself back in her seat, positioning her head and body, her eyes closed ready to nap.
I glance at my watch, still ten minutes away from my launch time. Talk! I tell myself. Say something, don’t let her sleep! My mind is blank, not one word or thought is forming. I grab the airline magazine in front of me, and start the words. “Have you read this article?” I ask holding the magazine in front of her.
“What article?” she asks sitting upright in her seat. Taking the magazine she flashes it back and forth. “This is shopping catalog!”
“Well, it looked interesting,” I mumble back with a quick glance at my watch.
Turning the conversation more personal I thank her for taking the trip with me. Her face glows at my words and I continue on with my appreciation of her in my life. It all flows, easily without my control, my heart speaking each word with the love I feel. At one point I gather her hands in my mine and say the rest asking to love and commit to her not just today, but our lifetime. Knowing my days would be fulfilled with her in my life. I wait for seconds, for a million long moments. Her smile and eyes responding before the sound of her voice. Then yes, the sweetest yes in the world.
I hit the call button as I turn in for a kiss. The flight attendant appears with a smile and tears in her eyes.
“Now?” she asks.
“Now,” I reply nodding my head.
The attendant pours the champagne into the glasses. Before our first sip, the pilot announces our engagement over the pager. Cheers and applauds erupt throughout the plane. Good wishes come from those around us. She is laughing and crying, and I think I am too. Fate I think as I look towards heaven. A job well done, from those wiser spirits who knew my life would be more with the sound of her beautiful laughter. A second chance given, and gladly dedicated to love and our new life.