Who Do You Want To Be?

Air travel is not what it used to be (I wonder if it was ever “what it used to be”), and can therefore be stressful for many people. Even so, I’m constantly dismayed at how just about everyone I come across in airports seems to exist in their own bubble; earbuds firmly in place, eyes fixed on some invisible middle distance, fingers dancing across tiny keyboards. They are apparently connected to everyone except those who are actually within touching distance.

As a seasoned and frequent traveler, I long ago decided that I could remove one source of stress from my life by striving to arrive at the airport much earlier than required. Often, I will just sit and watch the unending river of people flowing by. If it’s been a particularly long day, I may find a spot in a bar and have a quick drink. It’s here, the ubiquitous airport bar, where you often find people who are not disconnected, those kindred souls who would rather converse nose-to-nose with a stranger than electronically with someone they know. So unsurprisingly, it was at a bar in the Cincinnati airport, during a prolonged weather delay in January of 2002, where I met Sharon… who was, and remains, the most intelligent and witty woman I’ve ever met.

As soon as I sat and placed an order with the bartender… bourbon, two drops of water just to **** it off… she turned towards me from the next stool, leaned in expectantly, and asked with a wry smile, “So. Let’s talk. Who do you want to be?”

In some ways, I suppose an airport bar is a lot like EP… you can be whoever you’d like to be… and although the thought was interesting, I could see a gleam of a sharp mind lurking in her blue eyes and that was more than just interesting, that was intriguing. I took a quick sip of bourbon before responding, “You know what, I think I’ll be me. Straight. Nothing hidden. Anything and everything is fair game. Up for it?” She didn’t hesitate before extending one well-manicured hand for a quick shake to seal the deal followed by an exchange of first names.

A brief back-and-forth question and answer session established the basics and then we were off. We laughed, we cried, we drank cheap bourbon. We exposed our deepest fears and greatest achievements. We exchanged secrets that we thought would never see daylight. We solved world hunger, brought peace to the Middle East, and forever resolved the dilemma of “who” versus “whom.” She was well read and had a subtle but biting humor that could quickly cut through any attempt at artifice. She was both ferocious and vulnerable, and was at times unshakeable in her positions. I was eloquent and funny, and unleashed my well-honed ability to unravel and follow thin threads. We talked for hours, we talked for years. It was glorious.

When her flight was called, she sighed, gathered her belongings, and leaned in to give me a quick peck on the cheek. I don’t know her email address, phone number, or even last name, but I will never forget her. Nor will I ever forget the five words she whispered after bussing my cheek, and the rare blush they brought to my face….

“I would so do you.”

Yeah, and I’d have married you on the spot.
OverWritten OverWritten
46-50, M
11 Responses Dec 31, 2012

Reminds me of the last line from Beaudelaire poem I studied years ago in school

To a Passer-By
The street about me roared with a deafening sound.
Tall, slender, in heavy mourning, majestic grief,
A woman passed, with a glittering hand
Raising, swinging the hem and flounces of her skirt;
Agile and graceful, her leg was like a statue's.
Tense as in a delirium, I drank
From her eyes, pale sky where tempests germinate,
The sweetness that enthralls and the pleasure that kills.
A lightning flash... then night! Fleeting beauty
By whose glance I was suddenly reborn,
Will I see you no more before eternity?
Elsewhere, far, far from here! too late! never perhaps!
For I know not where you fled, you know not where I go,
O you whom I would have loved, O you who knew it!

What an awesome story! I travel the same way, and you are right, it's fun to meet fellow travelers at the lounge. You never know...maybe that was me :)

May I commend you for resisting the massive temptation to extend that moment into something else - by asking for her contact details. That takes great strength.

Not as commendable as it appears in retrospect, but I appreciate the sentiment. Who knows what may have happened? It could have been good, or could have been quite the opposite. I learned long ago to let things unfold at their own pace and enjoy what fate delivers. Now if I could just live by that all the time.

Thanks for reading and for the comment.

Sounds like you have another story there that needs sharing - or did that piece of learning evolve slowly?

Oh trust me... many more stories, some that can even be shared. I have the uncanny, though not uncommon, knack for learning most things the hard way.

I loved this but I sensed where it was going--eventually you would have to head off to different destinations...and I guess then the logical question is why you didn't exchange contact information, unless the answer is that that was never the intent, that the beauty is/was in the random connection made, the time passed in such a beautiful and productive way...
I LOVE making connections with perfect strangers, but I have never done it to the extent that you describe here. I think it would break my heart.
It sure makes for a nice memory though. You wrote it so well. I was enthralled.

I'm always amazed... pleasantly so... at how often and easily connections with complete strangers can be made. I suspect it's somewhat similar to EP... you're at least somewhat anonymous, so the risk of judgement is diminished. Or maybe I just listen well. Either way, it's a true pleasure when it happens.

I am rather good at it, but not everyone is comfortable talking to people they don't know, so a lot of it is having good instincts. But I would fall for someone who could engage me like what you've described here. That doesn't happen every day...

hello there

Yep - she chats to me; and I am strange or maybe even, Stranger. heheheee.

Nice piece. I like to connect casually with no promise of future relationships. Brings light friendships with no burden of being politically correct.

thanks for writing

We're all strange from someone's perspective. Some just a bit stranger than others.

And thank you for taking the time to comment. It's very much appreciated.

1 More Response

Would you say that to a man "who do you want to be?" Were you insinuating that she had not become someone good enough? I think her saying she would do you was her way of saying - patronise me and I'll treat YOU like a *****! haha fool!

Perspective is unique to the individual. Obviously.

I LOVE the airport for the exact same reason. You meet some of the neatest people and save yourself trouble by arriving early. They used to recommend showing up 2 hours before your plane takes off... The earliest I ever went to an airport was 16 hours early (long story) and the latest was only 15 minutes (another long story).
I'm 27 and I only have a halfway smartphone and sometimes a book to keep myself company while flying.

Your story was really well told, by the way. It really did make my day and 2013 just started.
Happy new year!

Glad you enjoyed, and Happy New Year back at you.

So true....I have been travelling thru airports for some time....and it has changed; where once a bartender had to walk away from patrons wanting to discuss all things....now, patrons bury their faces in Ipads or Smartphones linking electronically to who knows....the FTF is almost dead.....however, I keep a flame lit for those who stray from the path....those who dare to go astray....for it is in these souls that the next great stories will be written...

Indeed... we are out there, just harder to find these days. Keep the faith.

Oh, how I love this one! Those stolen moments with some stranger. I always have those...and wonder about them. I'm betting she didn't forget about you either.

Yeah, I suspect you cultivate and encourage those "chance" encounters, just as I do. You meet the most fascinating people that way.

I'm definately spending more time in airport lounges, thanks to you. What a delightfully spicy end to the story. The agony of what could have been....I love that part in my encounters. Yes, I do adore them.

what a fantastic story . . . how very refreshing in real life to have such an spontaineous ironic innocent meaningful quick yet eternal moment of time with a stranger . . . loved this . . . thank you for sharing . . .

You're welcome, and thank you for reading and commenting.

Excellent story! That's gotta drive you crazy! LOL Good memory.

It is a good memory. As to "crazy", it would be a very short drive.


Maybe you'll cross paths again one day, you never know! xx

Truthfully, I hope we don't, as the circumstances could never be replicated and that would likely serve to tarnish the memory. I still smile when this one comes to mind.

Thanks for reading and for the comment.

..... memories press between the pages of my mind..., the song came to mind and I started singing.