4.28.2007

We can't say we're satisfied

A 2003 Honda Civic with faux leopard skin seats pulls up to a 7-11. The female who aided it in doing so opens the door and exits. a minute later, she opens another door and exits, turning and flashing a smile at the two figures standing outside; one with a bike and a cigarette, another with neither.

"What are you too doing, hanging out there?"

"Just hanging out here."

"Loitering."

"Oh. Why do you look guilty?"

"That's simple. We are"

"Thoroughly. Now you're guilty by association"

"Ah. You're probably wondering why I'm opening the passenger door to get in"

"Exactly that, in fact."

"I can't unlock the driver's side door from the outside. I'm never buying a foreign car again"

"You know, the way they outsource for manufacturing and the way the designs are influenced, it's nearly impossible to 'buy American' totally."

"Yeah well I prefer Japanese cars anyways"

"Japanese cars are foreign cars..."

"Oh I'm sorry. I'm drunk, you have to understand"

We understood.

She drove off.


"cute girl., eh? Hope she doesn't kill herself out there."

"You can't look to me for agreement, I have a girlfriend"

"You can't hope for her well-being because you have a girlfriend?"

"You don't know my girlfriend."


I talk to strangers. As a rule.

Easy way to make my day, and hopefully someone else's, more interesting. Of course that's not all it does.

Airports are a particularly good place to meet strangers. At least for me. Theres an almost palpable feeling that everyone around you is sharing the same burden. It doesn't matter where you come from or how much money is in your pocket, anyone can have their shit torn through, stolen, or wind up in Belgium. Jet lag, anxiety from delayed flights, insomnia and exhaustion weigh heavy on the denizens of any given terminal. It's no coincidence that you'll find monks and cult leaders handing out religious texts at airports. People are in a state conducive to accepting new ideas. One of those ideas, apparently, is that talking to me is a good way to spend one's time.

Sometimes airport stress compounds other burdens, and it was clear that this was the case when I met one particular skyway refugee. She was, no doubts, older than me, with platinum blonde hair and a sort of uncertain smile Curiously, the conversation began (more or less) with us guessing each other's ages. I say, "curiously," because typically that's one of the last things that comes up in these sorts of situations where I'm involved with them. I lowballed out of courtesy, and was correct. She was pretty far off.

There was, of course, the boilerplate "getting to know you" bullshit. She showed me her sketchpad; I showed her a couple of pages from my writer's notebook. The stuff I'd banged out in class and hadn't really polished to any degree. Told her I was headed home for the Christmas break. She told me her story; how she was moving back in with her boyfriend, closing a rift between them. How her carry-on was filled with makeup and her clothes were being brought in by truck.

The cart came by and she ordered a Jim Beam and Coke. She nursed it as we continued to talk. Each of us was quite clearly interested in the other, due perhaps to what I'd mentioned earlier. She seemed eager to keep in touch and was about to give her number when the cart came back again

She eagerly added another shot to her drink. "Not strong enough," she said.

I may have said to Jason that the primary difference between one of my stories and one of his is the ending. A statement that could easily be misconstrued as a value judgment, but this story in particular demonstrates that it is not one.

She was clearly mulling a decision in her mind. What I realize in hindsight was that it was one she'd already made. She told me more about her boyfriend, how things had gotten rocky beforehand. How she would leave him if it turned out to be more of the same.

Jim Beam was betraying her and it was clear that there was something specific that she wasn't saying. I didn't press her, but eventually it too was clear, and it became clear to me that she was making a mistake. Perhaps to her as well. For a moment she was in a bit of a state. But it faded quickly and she was cheerful again. The transition was disturbing. Before long the plane was on the ground and I was helping her with her bags and trying to come up with a good reason to give her my number (I was bad at it then). But then there he was, come to pick her up as I'd expected, but he was a lot closer than I thought he'd be. And there was no way I could leave it then. I just nodded a quick goodbye and was off.

This has haunted me since, and I was reminded of it in one of {illyria}'s recent posts. She mentioned meeting strangers, and the serendipity, the disappointments, and the missed opportunities involved therein, as well as the distinctions between the three. And I'm not foolish enough to assume that I'm capable of saving anyone. But there was the opportunity to leave a line open, and it was missed. I hope she got out on her own, but save some bizarre coincidence, I'll never know.


Sing it, Mick

2 comments:

  1. Your post brought a memory to me which I wrote about in my blog. Thanks for the memory. Tess

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'll just say thanks for the story Wombat.

    He writes.....

    ReplyDelete