Only The Darkness
It's summertime, and I'm thinking of you again. The stars remind me of you, of that one night we spent together, at the airport of all places. And I don't believe in god or fate or karma, but sometimes I can't help but think that, if the planets line up just so, one more time, you'll show up again. So here I am, alone in the darkened parking lot, leaning against my car and watching the planes circle overhead.
I've always hated stories that hinged on coincidence or luck. I've never believed in love at first sight. So there's a part me that hates myself for the night we met.
I remember I parked my car here that night, on the roof of the parking garage. All the lower levels were filled, and I had to run across the airport to meet Nora at her gate. I was late by then, and she wasn't there of course. I thought I'd missed her, that she'd gone to the bathroom, or to get her luggage, or a snack, because Nora's like that. So I sat down and waited, until all the travelers dispersed and it was only you, me, and your single bag on the seat between us. "Just a little longer," I told myself, but ten minutes turned into thirty, and thirty more, and by then I knew she wasn't coming, because Nora's like that too.
So it was just the two of us, alone in the airport terminal, glancing at our watches and trying not to sigh. We both rose as another plane landed nearby, but I was headed to the door, and you were going to the window. Somehow, we managed to get in each other's way and we ended up standing in the middle of the terminal, watching the plane taxi into the next gate. Then you went back to your seat and I did something I'd never done before.
"Who are you waiting for?" Even in retrospect, I'm not sure why I asked. It just blurted out as you sat down.
"My cousin's supposed to be here."
"My friend was supposed to be on your flight."
It's stupid sometimes, how one simple question can set off a whole stream of others. You told me you were in town only for a few days. I told you about skipping dinner to come pick up Nora, only to find that she wasn't here. You asked if I was still hungry. I asked if you wanted anything from the vending machine.
"No thanks. I ate on the plane."
"Airline dinners," I huffed, and when I got back we shared a box of Smarties by the windows looking out onto the tarmac.
You told me your name was Josie, that you played the xylophone, and that your vacation got cut short because your grandfather died two days ago. I told you my cat's name was Fuzzy, that my favourite colour was green, and that Nora was the only real friend I had. I also told you about her new Mexican boyfriend, and we both laughed as though it didn't matter.
Every now and then, I'd hand you my cell phone, and you'd try to call your aunt and uncle, and cousin, and grandmother, all to no avail. Between mouthfuls of candy, we'd point out stars, or planes, or fuel trucks, or baggage trains. And when the landscape was still, unmoving and bereft of marvels, you whispered your secrets and I whispered mine back.
"I don't usually talk to strangers," you said, your eyes lost in the night.
"I'm gay, you know."
There was silence after that, for a little while, because I'd never told anyone before. In that time, the candy disappeared, and we shared a muted laugh at my attempt to save the green ones for last.
You told me then, about your five brothers and sisters, about growing up in a small town, and needing to get away from it all. "Back home, when I was a kid, I used to stand outside the airport and stick my fingers through the fence. I'd watch the planes take off, climbing higher and higher, until they broke through the clouds and carried my dreams away with them."
I stood, extended my hand. "If you want to watch the planes, I know a good spot."
You smiled when you took my hand, shouldered your bag, and followed me outside. We walked all the way to the parking complex, accompanied by the warm summer breeze, and you never let go of me, not even during the elevator ride to the top.
The roof was deserted, my car alone in the lot, without another soul nearby. The car was well situated, in the shadows between two lampposts, and when you set your bag on the ground, a large jet passed overhead, its lights winking down at us. I remember your hair was shiny and black in the moonlight, your eyes twinkling like the stars above. We sat ourselves on the trunk, and you linked your arm with mine, leaning against me.
For a long moment, we were quiet, and there was only the sound of engines as the planes roared by. There was a lull, and then another, and when you spoke, it was like you'd known me for much longer than this one night. "Are you lonely?"
"Sometimes. I don't have many friends."
"I'll be your friend."
A plane took off just then, screaming down the runway and breaking into the sky, drowning my thoughts in a wall of noise. And when the racket subsided all I had was a simple smile for you, but you kept talking, and the secrets kept coming.
"The first time I ran away from home, I had forty cents and half a pack of bubblegum in my back pocket. I got as far as the gas station before I chickened out and ran back home in time for dinner. I was nine years old then."
You told me about your tenth birthday party, about your ex-best-friend Dana, and the first time you kissed her. I held my tongue, because my secrets seemed so paltry compared to yours, and you continued.
"I've never understood my urge to get away, to pick up the empty handfuls of my life and take them somewhere else." You told me about running away at thirteen, sticking your thumb out on the highway, and having the first car to pass be a police cruiser. "Where're you headed, girl? Don't you know hitchhiking's illegal?" And we both laughed at your horrible imitation of a state trooper.
We were well into the next day by then, and I guess you'd given up on reaching your cousin, because you never did ask for the phone again, even when you ran out of stories. Still, we sat lost in thought, leaning against each other, until I told you about all the childish dreams I had and knew would never come true.
"Dance with me," you whispered when I finished, jumping off the car and dragging me with you.
And I said I didn't dance, but you told me that everyone danced to their own rhythm and I just hadn't found mine yet.
So we danced, to your silent tune, on the moonlit pavement of the airport parking lot. We danced for many, many minutes, until we'd covered every inch of the roof and collapsed against the car.
The touch of a button, and we were inside, the front seats tilted so far back we were practically lying down. I was in the driver's seat, the steering wheel against my legs, but I was so tired my eyes closed of their own accord. "I've never done that before."
You laughed, reached out for me, and we fell asleep holding hands.
When my phone rang, it was hours later, and I was barely conscious when I answered.
I thrust the phone at you and struggled out of the car so I could stretch my legs.
It was still dark out, though there was a telltale glow on the horizon. I paced the roof, looking off to the lights of the city in the distance. I stopped by the railing, placing my elbows on it and staring off into sky.
A short while later, your hands trailed down my back, your head was on my shoulder, and I could tell your face was wet even before I heard the shaky words. "I have to go. My grandfather's funereal is today."
"Do you want me to drive you?" And I told myself I was crying only because I felt your pain.
"No, my cousin's just downstairs." You pressed the phone into my hand and hefted your bag. Then you kissed me, ever so lightly, brushing the tears away with your lips. "Thank you."
And you were gone.
But I'm still here, in the place where we stopped being strangers, and I still remember every word you said to me. These days, all I do is tell myself I'm not supposed to fall in love overnight. I'm not supposed to care about that little time I spent with you. But it's useless, because I'm lonely, you're not here, and I still remember the promise you made the night we met.
So I sit by my car, watch the stars shine on the tarmac, and I whisper your name into the night. There's no answer though. There's only the darkness, because you're not with me, and I'm left here dancing with the shadows in my mind.