Let me tell you a little story.
When Tom and I started dating in 1996, he had a job setting up stores for Bed, Bath, and Beyond. We met on Friday, August 23, and we basically spent the day together. We went to see the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom on Sunday, August 25, where he told me he thought I was his soul mate; He brought me flowers and we went to lunch on Wednesday, August 28; and then I drove him to the airport so he could leave Cleveland for the next six weeks to set up stores.
I was anxious at the thought of not seeing this boy who I felt so connected with for the next six weeks, this boy that could have asked me to go to the courthouse before he left, and I would have said “yes.” I wanted to spend every second of every day with him, and he was leaving for a substantial amount of time. However, I had seen a great many romantic comedies, and I knew what was important to this relationship was the lingering kiss before he got onto the plane. The kiss that said, “I will be waiting here for you when you get back.” The kiss that said, “I will watch the plane take off.” The kiss that said, “You had me at ‘Can I get you a beer?’ ”
I decided not to pull up to the Continental drop-off like he was some kind of distant Uncle I was glad to get rid of. Instead, I pulled into short-term parking and I parked the car. We walked hand in hand through the sliding doors and rode the moving sidewalk to the esclator toward the ticket gate; he received his boarding pass but did not check his luggage. He had a pretty large duffel that easily could be crammed into an overhead compartment. We walked with his arm around my shoulder to the gate. We sat at gate 12A talking and laughing, secretly dreading the moment we would lose sight of each other, fearing that this surplus of emotion could abate.
The moment came.
“Now boarding Flight 1687 to Sacramento, California. All passengers in Rows A-E can now board.”
Tom rose. He looked at me. He brushed the back of his fingers down my right cheek. He lightly grabbed my chin and brought his face close to mine. Gently, he pressed his lips into mine, and I was immediately intoxicated by his scent, by his touch, by the passion in his lips, and by the slight presence of his tongue. I felt the titillation of passion, and I wanted nothing more than for him to stay, for us to be together like this forever. It lasted only a moment, but it would have to be enough to satiate me until he came home again.
I watched as he walked down the ramp onto the plane. He turned and looked at me just as he was about to enter the plane. He smiled, and I felt like, “Yes, this is the boy I want to spend the rest of my life with.”
Why do I tell you this story? Because I don’t know if our love would have survived had I dropped him at the gate. The two hours, the conversation, the kiss, that final smile gave me something tangible. It gave me assurance that might not have come had I watched him walk into the terminal and out of sight. I did not see him for six weeks, and those last few hours together and the fact that I wanted to wait in the airport meant something to us both.
Two weeks ago, I heard a story of a musician flying on Delta airlines. He had a ten thousand dollar Gibson guitar in his possession, and he wanted to carry it on. They have metal detectors to make sure it was not some kind of a Gibson bomb or something, and he even said it could stay with the flight attendants, he just did not want to check it because it was so valuable. The ticket attendant said for the safety of the crew and passengers, it had to be checked. The musician reluctantly agreed.
You know what happened? The guitar was smashed by the baggage handlers who threw it like it were a giant duffel bag. His guitar came around the baggage carousel ruined.
I’m glad I fell in love pre 9/11. Had I not, I could be a 43-year-old, rummage-sale, Gibson guitar– broken beyond repair– loved by no one.