Love and Other Nuisances

Yong was driving to the airport with me.

It was early August, 1991.  Ray was coming home for a three week leave from the Army.  In his last phone call, from Germany, he asked if he could stay with me for a few days before going up to his parents’ place.  I talked to my mom, and she thought it was fine.  He could stay in my sister’s old room in the basement.

I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the visit.  Ray, in his notes and phone calls, stated that he was still in love with me, and that he couldn’t wait to come back and see me.  But he also let it be known that he lived with a woman in Germany, someone named Josephine.

I chuckled when he told me.  Of course it wasn’t simple.  He loved me, but then he was living with someone else. Dawn and Todd were right; he was projecting strong emotions on me during the difficult times he was facing, because I was there for him.  I’d cared enough to write, letters out of the past that gave him comfort and faith in a time when the outside world was giving him horror.  I understood exactly what was happening here.  He wanted to come home and be comfortable again.  No problem.  He couldn’t face his parents right away, and wanted to ease in to home.  I could help with that.

He was flying in, late.  This is why Yong was making the forty five minute trip to the airport with me.  She too didn’t want to see me fall in Ray’s savvy clutches again, but she also didn’t want me driving through the city after dark alone.   She hadn’t ever met Ray during high school, but she had heard all about him and our hot and cold relationship during the final years of high school.  She wanted to be sure he didn’t try anything slick.

The airport was mostly deserted as we took our seats at the gate.  Such a different time then, when you could go straight to the gate as a non ticketed person and greet someone the moment they stepped off of the jetway.  The black Naugahyde chairs were uncomfortable and we were early.  Yong and I bought bad coffees to stay awake at the stand (again, before Starbucks was ubiquitous at every airport).

“What do you think will happen with him?”  she asked.

“I don’t really know,” I mused.  “He says he’s still in love with me, but I know where it is coming from.  If anything, this visit will remind him exactly who I am, not the romantic idea he has in his head.  The six am wake up calls from Zach will probably be enough to drive him far away, fast.”

“What would you do if he tries to kiss you?” she pressed, not willing to believe that this was the nothing I was saying it was.

I thought about it for a minute, and could feel the sweat start to dampen my palms.  “I don’t know,” I said quietly.

“Yes you do,” she answered.  “You’re going to kiss him back.  I can tell.”

“How?” I countered in my most skeptical voice.

“First of all, you let the guy call you in the middle of the night.  If you didn’t give a crap about him, you would have told him not to.  Second of all, you’re letting him stay at your house, which by itself is bad enough but thirdly, you’re picking him up from the airport.  I think you’re full of shit when you say you don’t still care about him.   You so obviously do.”

“Of course I care about him,” I answered sulkily.  “I never said I didn’t care.  I will probably always care about the guy.  That’s why I am doing all of this.  But I’m not in love with him.  I don’t even know who he is at this point.  He could be completely different.”

“Maybe that’s what you’re hoping for,” she responded.  She gestured to the floor to ceiling windows at the gate.  “Looks like you don’t have to wait much longer to find out.”

A plane was slowly pulling into the empty spot at the end of Gate A6.


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