“Hi! My seat is right in there.” I pointed at my window seat and tried not to blush.
“Sure, come on in.” he moved out of the way.
I grabbed my backpack, threw it in the overhead bin and slid across the seats.
Don’t be awkward, Mueller I muttered in my brain.
I pulled some things out of my purse and then shoved it underneath the seat in front of me.
“Oh, you can use the middle seat. The plane is supposed to be empty. I got transferred to this flight and they said it’s like half full.” And that was when I noticed his accent.
I smiled and said something mildly coherent back.
Soon enough we exchanged pleasantries and names. It was the typical conversation travelers have when they aren’t completely closed off to human interaction. I learned where he was from, where he was going, where he had been. We remarked on the weather and I told him what I did.
I probed enough to figure out what level of conversation was appropriate to engage with. We were both in for a long flight so what was twenty minutes out of four hours?
And then I learned more of his story and I told him mine. It seemed like minutes before they came around to pass out snacks and drinks. We both seemed slightly annoyed by the interruption of a French male flight attendant who seemed annoyed to be there. We giggled at his style and then both saw across the aisle a man wearing sunglasses switching seats constantly. We created dialogue and scenarios for both their lives. Laughing harder at our jokes than was probably appropriate. Of which was obviously noticeable seeing as my laugh is incredibly loud.
I waited and waited for the moment when he would take out his kindle and our conversation would lull. But when it did lull, he’d look at me, smile, hold my gaze and let the lull pass.
“What’s on your bucket list?” he asked.
I started laughing again because my bucket list has always been slightly ridiculous. I grimaced and shared a few things, which in light of his life felt foolish. Because he’s climbed mountains, and traveled further than I’ve imagined, and understands technical things which don’t even register on my scale of comprehension.
So learning how to drive stick-shift felt pretty silly in comparison to Kilimanjaro.
I glanced down at my watch and realized we were almost three hours into our four hour flight. Stunned I kept my thoughts to myself because I wanted it to continue forever.
“What would you do if money, time, and location were a non-issue?” I curiously asked.
As he thoughtfully answered I pushed him on why he didn’t do it now. He pushed back.
I don’t know many people who push back when I push.
I don’t know many people that can make me laugh at the sheer brilliance of their wit.
I don’t know many people like him.
At one point I apologized for keeping him occupied with my rambling and informed him he was free to disengage at any moment. He laughed and assured me he was enjoying it more than anything he brought with him. As we started our descent, I kept thinking about what would happen when we got off the plane and parted ways.
Give him your number! my bold side urged
Are you kidding? no. freaking. way. my rational side argued back.
Mueller. what is the worst that could happen?
Heartbreak. Heartbreak can happen. Lying on the floor in the fetal position. Crying. No. No numbers. I reasoned.
Shut up jerk.
We stood up and started to make our way into the aisle. He stood in front, reached up to grab my backpack and confirmed that it was indeed my belongings he was carrying. I smiled as I awkwardly stepped out of the seats and tried to sling my backpack on my shoulders, grab my purse, adjust my hat, and not injure the passengers behind me in the process.
He walked in front and I followed. When I reached the jet way he waited and fell in sync with my steps. We walked into the terminal his pace matching mine. I deviated from the plan and started walking down the stairs which he quickly followed. We were making some sort of inconsequential conversation as my inner dialogue continued whether or not to give him my number.
As we reached the bottom of the stairs I needed to go left to pick up my bag and he needed to go straight to his car. I slowed down and eventually stopped as I motioned towards baggage claim.
“Well, I’m this way.” I pointed and half smiled.
“And I’m that way.” He nodded in the other direction.
“Okay, so I guess I’ll see you around!” I stepped in and hugged him.
Surprised, he hugged back, trying to maneuver around my backpack.
Feeling the blush start creeping into my face I started to turn away.
“Good luck on your interviews!!” He called out as he walked away. I smiled and waved and started towards the baggage claim.
His stride picked up as he braced to walk into the winter air and find his car. I walked over to the conveyor belt wondering what had just happened when I realized my face hurt. I reached up and touched my cheeks only to realize that I had been smiling for four hours straight.
What am I doing??? GO AFTER HIM!
Without thinking, I turned around and started running towards the door. I ran up the ramp, out the first set of sliding doors and towards the second.
The doors opened and a blast of frigid air hit me like a ton of bricks taking my breath away.
And I saw him, walking intently towards the shuttle, stepping on, and sitting down.
I started to shout his name when the words caught in my throat and I felt my feet hit the ground as I lost the courage to try.
Just like that, the doors shut, the shuttle started driving off, and I watched it fade into the black cold night.
I turned around, walked back inside, shook my head and thought, I guess I’ll never know.
but with you
i feel again
yeah with you
i can feel again
i’m feeling better since you know me
i was a lonely soul but that’s the old me
with you, i can feel again.