I spent takeoff developing a cold and sleeping. I woke up in time for the drink cart. At this point, the fella next to me, H, introduced himself. D, ever more social than I am, chatted with him for a bit. H was about my age, friendly, and destined for Italy, where he would take part in an opera workshop. It was the opera bit that turned me squishy: This dude can sing. Opera! I instantly decided that, whether he knew it or not, he was my boyfriend.
The drink cart came and went, and soon he turned his attention from D me. We were both shy, but isn’t that the way the best romances were supposed to begin? A little hesitation, a little doubt, but then BAM! the realization that we were truly meant to be. While I waited for BAM! he stayed matter-of-fact about his life, his journey to Europe, and the refreshing nature of his drink.
I should take a moment to admit that I remember very little else about H. I don’t even remember what he looked like. I was obsessed with psychically demanding him to be my boyfriend. I remember that I was wearing a red shirt, jeans, and my Danskos. I was turning stuffy from the aforementioned cold. I think I drank a Coke. But H? I was too busy willing him to be mine to actually notice who he was.
I used to do this thing in school—mostly middle school—where I would stare at whichever of my ever-revolving crush list happened to be in the room. This was most conveniently done during overhead projection lectures, when the lights were out, and by the dim light of the projector I would just make out, across the room, my crush. I honed my “you-will-be-MINE” skills during this time. It never seemed to work, but I did develop a keen sense for picking out faces in the dark.
Fortunately H was in the light (well, the light of a plane cabin), and so I could, I reasoned, more effectively sway him to boyfriendhood. I eventually decided that boring my eyes into his head might spook him into switching seats with someone less appealing, and I guess he was feeling too shy to look me in the eye very much, so we spent much of our conversation looking at the back of the seat in front of him (it was grey).
The stale airplane air, my cold, and the never ending stretch of sitting in one place eventually took its toll, and I nodded off.
When I woke up, my head was resting on H’s shoulder, his head was sleepily laying on mine, and our legs were pressed against each other.
It may have taken over ten years, but finally, FINALLY, I had tapped the power to make a man be my boyfriend. Well, in my broad definition of “boyfriend,” at any rate. If he didn’t mind my snotty head on his shoulder, then it must be love, right? H woke up with a small smile on his face. We chatted quietly for the rest of the flight.
Alas, all short-term love affairs do, by definition, come to an end. In this case, the descent into Heathrow brought with it the melancholy beginnings of good-bye. “You’re going to miss this,” I said. “Yeah,” he said. I pointed to the plastic knob on the tray on the seatback in front of him. “You’re going to miss THIS,” I said. Across the aisle, D (quietly) laughed until she shook. H sat still, looking at the knob, a glazed look on his face. “Um…yeah.”
There was no dramatic embrace, no kiss, no tears as we departed the plane. As D and I waited for our luggage, she said, “It wouldn’t have worked out. That knob thing? He doesn’t get your sense of humor.” She poked me in the arm. “Hey, look.” Yards away stood H, looking in my direction. I didn’t know what to do. He sang opera, he let me sleep on him, he validated those countless hours thought-morphing other boys into romance. But D was right: he didn’t get my sense of humor. I let this one go.
Personally, I miss that knob.