They were sensible people. They booked two aisle seats in the same row of the plane. They didn’t need to be squished up against one another to be together. There was no urgency. There was plenty of time.
He wore an ironed button up underneath a navy sweater, and all I could see around the back of the seat in front of me was her sandy blonde hair and the silver ring on her left hand as she leaned across to offer him half of the peanut butter sandwich she packed. He read the theater reviews in the Times, taking his glasses on and off, trying to make out the small print. They talked about a show they were hoping to catch in a few weeks, and she admitted to always having a platonic crush on some actor or playwright or someone who didn’t matter as much as the man across the aisle, and he smiled because he knew.
I was on an airplane traveling home, leaving you and the safe little space we’ve only ever existed in for the first time. It was too new to say where we were headed, to call it anything other than something that could be, something that might be, we’ll see. A spring romance that found itself buried in winter.
Thousands of feet above the ground, I watched our perfect airport goodbye behind my closed eyelids. I replayed the moment, the softness of our voices, the don’t forget about me, the urgency of sweet words and strong hugs, and the certainty I felt for a brief moment. But I knew better than to think anything was guaranteed, that we could just come back and pretend as though time hadn’t passed at all. I knew better than to think even the most perfect of goodbyes could preserve anything as new as us.
Because people change their minds, and months and miles rip away comfort and certainty and leave doubt in their place. But even potential love hurts when it disappears. So I held your face close to mine, intimately aware of our limited time and the possibility of never really returning, and let myself fall in love with the moment—because it was too soon for anything more.
The airplane shook me awake from the daydream, and I lost you. I looked forward and saw the woman reach her hand across the aisle, tucking her fingers under his still holding the newspaper in front of him. It seemed easy and effortless, as though they had done so hundreds of times. And after a few moments she let go.
Maybe these are merely projections, naive ideas about love that couldn’t possibly be understood by a stranger sharing a flight south for the winter. I don’t mind pretending though. I want their certainty. I want time.