Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Good Memory - 2000

I stand near the gate, waiting for the flight from Dallas to disembark. My brother, Tim, stands there with me. We’d arranged to meet in the Charlotte airport at the central food court. His flight from Philly had arrived a little before mine, and he’d found the lockers to stow away his baggage. He met me coming off my flight from Tampa, and we’d gone to the baggage pick-up and then stowed my bags away. We had some beer and cigarettes while we figured out when Kay’s flight would be in. I was anxious to meet her plane, and we finally headed down the concourse to the correct gate. Now, here I am, waiting for Kay. My stomach is turning over. Nervous? Nahhhhh.

I’ve known Kay since early 1998. We met at an online Trivia site and hit it off well. Over the months we chatted, surfed the Web together, played Cribbage online, and got to know each other. I explained to her how to make a sound file of her voice and heard her speak for the very first time. After a while, I found myself “going online” specifically to see Kay.

It was exhilarating and scary at the same time. I liked Kay. I was attracted to her humor and intelligence, worried because she lived alone, and asked about her tiny dog. We had become friends. For me, it had become more.

I check my watch for the hundredth time, glance at Tim, and scan the crowd near the doors. The plane is there, and I know how long it takes to get off the darn thing. I crane my neck to see around the lake of heads in front of me, as if that will make her appear faster. It doesn’t work.

She was careful about what she told me and how much she let me know. We’ve both heard the tales of what can go wrong when you didn’t know who was on the other end of the Net. She didn’t have a scanner – neither did I – so I asked her to send me a photo of her. We’ve described ourselves to each other, but that really tells nothing, and I wanted to see what she looked like. So, I gave her my address and she promised to send a picture.

At some point, she gave me her address and I sent off a picture of me. Yes, I was worried that she was four-feet tall and 500 pounds. I confess: I’m shallow. I wanted her to be pretty at the very least. As if I’m a Tom Selleck clone, right? Yeah.

The envelope arrived, her ink purple – that’s her color – her script precise and curly. I saved it for last, opening the bills and stuff first. I opened the envelope at last and pulled out her letter. I read it, but I don’t remember now what it said. Then I turned over the photo.

Taken at Christmas time, she looked tired, the photo shot head on from across the room. She was dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. She had a pretty face, but looked kind of haggard and puffy. This had to have been the worst photo ever taken. And I was disappointed. Not terribly, but that picture was not the dream photo I stupidly expected.

The doors bang open and the attendants open them wide and kick down the doorstops. I stare down the hallway and see nothing.

“This is taking forever,” I mumble to my brother. He shrugs. It doesn’t matter to him. He’s met Kay in chats and played Cribbage with her online. They get along, but he’s not here waiting for her, I am. He’s here because I asked him to be. A group of us from the Trivia Site is meeting here in North Carolina – my choice of places – to have a vacation and finally meet the people we’ve come to know in our daily games online. One is coming from Britain. He’s meeting the woman he fell in love with online. They’ve never met before this get-together was planned.

I hear a hubbub and can finally see people moving up the hallway from the plane. I have no idea if I will recognize Kay. I have one photo to compare her with, and it’s months old. And a lousy picture. But I do have a clue. She told me she’d be wearing purple shorts. My gaze moves from the sea of faces to a forest of legs. It seems nobody is wearing purple today.

We exchanged telephone numbers and I spoke with her for the first time. She had a midwest twang, and I liked hearing her. We were both nervous the first few times we spoke. By this time, I knew I was falling in love with her. Had fallen for her a while ago. She asked about the picture and I did my best to hide what I knew was disappointment. I knew how bad some pictures could be. She told me she liked my picture, liked the way I looked. Made me feel wonderful to hear that.

Somebody in the Trivia group had floated the idea of a get-together. Las Vegas. Tim and I had visited Boone, NC the previous year. I was doing research for a novel, and we both liked the area. So I suggested Boone as a meeting place. I described its beauty and the area around – lots of touristy places – and how cheap the accommodations would be. For me, this would be almost like home ground.

Discussions went on for a few weeks and it was finally decided to head for Boone. We’d meet in late May. I would handle some of the arrangements, but each person would take care of the rest. Kay and I had made a very good friend with a woman in California – Kelly – and she was coming, too. Kay and Kelly would share a room; Tim and I would share a room, too.

We’d agreed that this was a good idea. If we didn’t get along in person, we’d have our own rooms and wouldn’t have to deal with each other. We played it safe. We were not exactly brave souls. But we were going to meet. At last.

We planned and planned; I set up our hotel rooms, and worked out the timing so that the four of us would arrive close together. By this time, we weren’t spending as much time online anymore; we were piling up big long-distance phone bills instead. The night before our flights, our conversation was nervous and expectant. We were both scared and both hopeful. I’d already proposed to Kay by then. Without ever meeting this woman, I had fallen in love with her, and wanted to spend my life with her. So nobody ever accused me of smarts. I went with my heart.

Kay said yes. Yeah!

I see black curls bobbing along in the crowd emerging into the concourse, but I still don’t see purple. I look down and see enormous legs clad in khakis. “Move, Fatso, move,” I think. He does, and I see a flash of purple move to my right, heading toward the center of the airport. The Food Court is our alternate meeting place.

I stand on tiptoe and see the curls, then look down and see the purple shorts. “Kay!” I yell. “That’s her!” I babble to Tim, over my shoulder. I head in her direction. The black curls swivel around and I see her face turn to find my voice. Her smile grows wide, and mine hurts me it is so big. We move right into each other’s arms and embrace. She holds me back and looks at my face. It’s the first time I get to see her face close-up. She’s just absolutely beautiful. She smiles again and her nose crinkles.

We kiss and she tastes good. Her waist feels fine under my hand; the scent she wears is delicate and tasty. When we hold hands, hers fits in mine like a glove. She is not a disappointment. She is a delight. Kay and I are finally together. Sometimes, life is very good.


Karen Schmautz said...

This is compelling reading. I couldn't "put it down",so to speak.

benning said...

Thanks, hick. What a nice thing to say. :D

The MacBean Gene said...

Thanks for stopping by and leaving the comments. You and anyone else are more than welcome to express thier thoughts in any form of rant they chose.
This is a super post and I'm glad you've been so richly blessed.

benning said...

I appreciate your visit, and the kind words, mac. The blessing ended, sadly, in Summer 2004. *sigh* Life goes on, right?

Hawkeye® said...

Excellent writing skills... very suspenseful. Lots of tension, then gentle release... and relief!

Good stuff.

benning said...

Thanks, Hawk! I appreciate the visit!

Anonymous said...

Hi Benning,

All I can say is WOW! What a compelling story. I love the way you narrated it, using flashback without interupting the flow. Is there a sequel to this story? again, I'm curious.

benning said...

The sequel to this, I suppose, is being incorporated into a novel. Actually the sequel to "Benning's War". Bluntly, by 2004 "Kay" decided that I was not ambituos enough and did not make enough money, for her. She has a fear of poverty, and I guess she thought I would always be hovering at the poverty line. She left me between hurricanes in 2004.

And it still hurts. Silly, but there you are!