We embraced. I held her in my arms, gave one last squeeze and released. The cab driver grabbed my luggage, tossed it in the trunk and gave me a glare that seemed to say “Hurry up, Miss. I haven’t got all day”. Sadly, I slunk in the back of the cab and waved goodbye to my best friend. We had just spent an amazing week together exploring the boroughs of New York and it was time for me to return to the land of perpetual sunshine and surfboards. As the cab pulled away, I watched her fade into the distance. There she was, standing in front of a beaten and bruised brick building in Brooklyn, adorn in a brightly patterned dress and about to walk back in to a room filled with artists and life enthusiasts. And there I sat, about to head home to a place I couldn’t have been more disconnected from. My bright eyes dulled by a city of people wanting nothing more than to conform to the norms of society.
Tears filled my eyes as we pulled on the freeway. Slowly, the city started to escape me. I could feel my friend growing farther away from me and the city fading away, as if it were only a dream. My heart and soul screamed inside me, begging my mouth to speak. Wanting my hands to pull at the door handle and for my legs to sprint back to the city that felt more like home, but all I could do was try and stifle the tears. My fear of the unknown kept me from charging after the life I so badly wanted and kept me paralyzed in the stale smelling cab heading to JFK. Brimming with tears and not wanting to cry in front of the cab driver, I tried to think of happier thoughts. Then the rain began to fall. With each drop that landed on the window, it became more difficult to contain them. The rain grew in its intensity and with it, my emotions. Finally I gave in, and slowly and quietly I let the tears roll down my cheeks, matching in rhythm the rain drops that were washing away the dirt and grime on the streets of Manhattan. By the time we arrived at the airport, I barely had the strength to thank the driver, grab my bags and head inside. It was as if my heart had become filled with lead in an attempt to anchor me there.
I checked my bags, made my way through security and melted in to a worn chair in the terminal. Secretly I hoped that the rain would become a storm and that the flight would be canceled. To my dismay, the woman over the loudspeaker assured me not to worry, that the flight would depart as scheduled. When my section was called, I gathered my things and made my way to the plane. Typically I would scan the aisle intently, searching for the most handsome man or most interesting person to sit next to. This time, all I could manage was to look for an empty seat. Front, back, aisle, window, I could have cared less. As soon as I was situated, buckled and strapped in for the long flight back to San Diego, the speaker announced that we would remain on the tarmac for another 30 minutes while we waited for the rain to lift. What a tease! Torture. The city was holding me in her grip. A half answered prayer, I was allowed 30 more minutes to dream, yearn and reminisce on my week there. I drifted out of the moment and in to a vision of museums, parks, Broadway Shows, night clubs, lost purse adventures, exotic men, oysters at Grand Central Oyster Bar and laughter and dancing with my best friend and partner in crime. Damnit. Leaving her and leaving the city was harder than I expected.
Achoo! The guy sitting next to me sneezed. Without thought, I responded “God bless you”. A few minutes later, he asked if he could borrow my phone to make a quick phone call. Extremely embarrassed, I told him I didn’t have my cell phone with me and explained that I left my purse in a cab the first night I was in New York, basically gifting my iPhone to the cab driver. He smirked, gave his sincerest condolences for my loss, and thus began our flight long conversation. From take off to touch down, we spoke on nearly every topic imaginable. We talked about our childhood, discussed our education and what was lacking in it, complained and shared hopes for our careers. When it came to our shared passion for music, I think we babbled on for two hours, maybe more. He, a song writer, guitarist and cello player. Me, a singer and lover of most genres. Album names, specific songs, feelings evoked, memories attached – all of this explored as if it were part of a very serious social experiment and study. We continued on. We shared our stories of falling in love and tales of heartbreak. We both had experienced betrayal in our heartbreak, and we shared the dirty details. Details that may not have been shared with more than a few close people in our lives. We unleashed ourselves. For nearly seven hours, we shared our stories and were completely vulnerable knowing we most likely would never meet again.
When the wheels touched down, I felt renewed. I had found someone that understood every word I spoke and I was confident that I would find more like minded souls to join me on my journey. Somewhere in the sky, I had found peace. Maybe it was over the Rockies or during the rant about our shared disdain for laundry; but somewhere along the way, I became calm and comforted. This was the first time I was able to pinpoint in the exact moment why someone was sent to me. I knew it then, and I know it now. When our conversation began, I was sad and discouraged. By the time we hugged and waved goodbye at baggage claim, I felt like a brand new person. My worries and doubts were gone. Any sadness that lingered in my heart was over powered by the beauty of our connection. It was a first glimpse at the simplicity and power within our connection as humans. That moment captured me and stays neatly tucked in the corner of my heart.
Life is a series of moments. Some fated. Some serendipitous. Some happenstance. In each of these moments, there is an opportunity to learn a life lesson and more about yourself. That rainy April day, I learned a lot.
P.S. My airplane friend and I remain friends to this very day. In fact, I awoke this morning to a message regarding a new album recommendation. Thank you, my friend!
Isn’t that amazing? Turns out the guy you sat next to was both the most handsome man AND the most interesting person on the plane! Truly inspiring.
You are so humble, Mr. Plane. 🙂