On getting picked up in airplanes

Thirteen years ago today I met my boyfriend.

My parents were missionaries in the Philippine Islands. Still are, as a matter of fact. And thirteen years ago today, I took a flight to return from a summer visit to my parents back to the Bible college in Tennessee that I was attending.

I left from Manila, had a stopover in Osaka, and was to land (some 14 hours later) in New York.  It was one of those huge planes—10 seats across—and I happened to score an aisle seat for the long leg of the journey. I settled myself in, tuned out the world, and that was that.

Half an hour or so after the stopover in Osaka, a guy tapped me on the shoulder. I was reading, completely entranced in… well, I vaguely remember trying to get through Crime and Punishment that summer, so we we’ll say I was completely entranced in the Dostoyevsky—anyway, I was reading and this guy tapped me on the shoulder. I, of course, being the smooth operator that I was (and still am) jumped like I’d been shot. And it was this cute guy. Tall, dark. Nice face. And smiling at me. And so I smiled back.

He was flying back from a study abroad in Japan. And the guy he was traveling with was having trouble with his knees—or maybe his stomach?—anyway, he really needed an aisle seat. And would I switch seats with his friend? And being an (occasionally) amenable creature, and since a cute guy was asking me for something, I immediately agreed.

And so it turned out that I spent the next fourteen hours getting to know my boyfriend. Because the cute guy in the airplane is my guy. We talked about music and books and history and movies. I think he was the first smart guy I’d ever talked to. I mean, guys in high school might have been good at a particular subject, but they couldn’t talk about anything but comic books. But he had seen all the Hitchcock movies that I loved, knew about the books I’d grown up with. He had a favorite Shakespeare play. Let me say that again. This cute guy, who just (rather smoothly, my nineteen-year-old self thought) picked me up on an airplane, he had a favorite Shakespeare play.

I was smitten. But I was in Bible college in Tennessee. And he was going to college in DC. And I hadn’t quite realized the fundamentalist thing wasn’t for me, and southern fundamentalists most certainly do not date liberal, politically-inclined northerners, no matter how much they might want to. And so I said goodbye, rather definitively. He mentioned coming to visit in Tennessee, and I said no. He called several times, but I felt awkward. And so I chalked the whole thing up as a fabulous experience and went on with life, such as it is, in a fundamental Baptist college.

But he sent me Christmas cards. And after a few years, he started emailing, sporadically, just to say hi. And we’d talk about movies and books and places we’d like to visit and things we’d like to do. And he (I’m sure) was dating other people, and maybe I was too, but I sure loved getting those emails. And the emails became less sporadic, and we started talking on the phone, and a tentative visit was planned and the rest, as they say, is history.

And life is good.

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