I hammered this out in the airport as I waited for my flight this morning. The guy down the counter from me was giving me really weird looks, like he thought I was typing a super long email or something--ha. Anyway, it was just one of those mornings where I just wanted to sit and write and write and write and didn't have time for it. :(
It's always funny to me how few people you notice, even glance at, as you're walking through security at the airport. Seriously, next time you're walking through there, take a minute when you're about halfway through the line and look at the people come at you from the other direction. Do you recognise any of them, even just a bit? What about the lady with the square jaw who looks kind of like a toad? What about the older gentleman who looks kind of like your grandfather? Have you noticed any of them, despite the fact that you've been walking past them again and again for maybe ten minutes? Not really, right?
Well him? Him, I noticed right away. I think I noticed him even before I was passing him in line, if that's possible even though he was behind me at that point. Maybe I just knew he was there.
It wasn't that he was beautiful or handsome, or even especially good-looking. There was just something about him, some indefinable charisma, that drew my eyes to him. My hands itched for my camera, but I figured taking pictures of a stranger would be a sure way to not get through security. It was always risky enough for my since a) I was a college student and b) I carried my camera and laptop and video camera and the cords I needed for all of those. They definitely took a long time looking at my things under the screen. It didn't help that since I normally travelled in pyjama bottoms, those few times I didn't, I forgot to remove my belt and got held up at the metal detectors.
Anyway, my first thought when I saw him was to smile. Which sounds stupid because people aren't supposed to just go around smiling at strangers, but there you have it. I smiled at him, and if my imagination wasn't playing tricks on me, I think he smiled back at me. So maybe it wasn't totally stupid, but then again, he could have just been being friendly while inside he was thinking, what is this freak doing smiling at me? Does he know something I don't know? Conspiracy theories!
Okay, so maybe not like that, but he was probably really creeped out. Or maybe I'm just paranoid, but I think I would be creeped out.
When the line looped back, though, he gave me a little bit of a wave—I guess he thought it was his turn to initiate contact. Either that, or he was waving at someone behind me or something, in which case my waving back to him was kind of random and spastic.
The third time we passed one another, he grinned again, probably at my confused look—what was I supposed to do now? Should I say hi? Or was this all just politeness and he didn't actually want to talk?
After the fourth time we passed, I finally made my decision and dropped back four people so I was walking next to him. "Hi," I mumbled shyly. Sheesh, I was such a creeper. Who would be so desperate as to be trying to make new friends/pick up guys in the security line in the airport?
He was still grinning. "Hi, yourself. I'm Eric. Where're you off to?"
"School," I said with a bit of a shrug, still not sure this was such a good idea. Actually, I was coming to the conclusion that this was an even worse idea than I had at first believed it to be, since I didn't know what to say. It's all well and good to do something stupid but I didn't want to sound like an idiot, too.
"I figured you were going to school," he said, sounding amused. "Where are you going to school at?"
I blushed, feeling even more like a moron. Of course—I was a college-age guy and almost everyone was starting school again the next Monday. "Right," I muttered. "Um, Boston."
"Oh, cool. I'm off to New York—for school, too." He could have sounded like an ass when he the add-on, but instead he somehow made it sound like just a friendly comment. "You're a…sophomore?"
"Senior." I mean, yeah I was kind of short and still all kinds of weedy but sheesh, a sophomore?
He laughed. "Oh, good. I thought so, but I was afraid I'd be wrong if I guessed that." He shrugged. "So am I. At NYU."
"Ooh, ritzy kid," I dared to venture.
He laughed again. "Yeah, more like student loans, poor for the rest of his life kid. Nothing in Boston is really cheap either, though, right?"
I shrugged. "Not really. I don't think college in general is very cheap. Unless you're going to some hick school like the one near my grandma. They all were hoping I'd be going there, I think, but sheesh, I can't even imagine driving, like, fifty miles to go to the grocery store. And I mean, everyone's real friendly but I'm from the coast originally so that just kind of creeps me out…" I clapped a hand over my mouth, face heating up again. "I'm babbling." As if he hadn't noticed.
He reached out and ruffled my hair. "Don't worry, it's cute."
I don't know what possessed me to do it, but I stuck my tongue out at him. "Only old relatives are supposed to ruffle people's hair."
He gave me a wink, then moved toward the nearest person stamping boarding passes. I wanted to follow him, but the woman directing people waved me to a different line. I sighed inwardly: I hadn't even got his number. Not that I thought anything might happen if I had his number, it just would have been nice, you know? Validating. I was already so worried that I wasn't going to make friends this year at school—not that there was anything wrong with my friends from any of the previous years, but we weren't going to be living in the same area anymore and I didn't think we would keep in touch and hang out that often anymore.
And not that he was from my area or anything, but if I knew I, I don't know, wasn't incapable of making friends, it would have made me feel better.
And I mean, sheesh, he had that charisma thing going on.
I went through security—it took just as long as I thought it would (longer, even, because they decided to air test my shoes of all things, like I might have, I don't know, put something bad in there, which I totally wouldn't have because that would have made me paranoid that I would step wrong or something, but I totally don't have the temperament to be a terrorist so maybe they would be more willing to risk it).
Anyway. Through security and into the tram and up the escalators and check to make sure my plane's on time and my gate hasn't been changed. And then head that direction.
When I heard someone yelling behind me, I didn't really pay attention—you know, airports, families, children…someone's always making noise about something. Well, maybe not, but sometimes it feels that way.
Then someone caught my arms. "I said, hey."
I blinked, wondering who could be talking to me there in the airport. I didn't think I knew anyone flying from that airport that day. And then I recognised the man from the security line—Eric, had he said. "Oh. Um. Hi?"
He snorted and let go of my arm. "Sorry to grab you like that but you didn't tell me your name before and, apparently, you're pretty oblivious."
And I was blushing again. "Oh. Yeah. Wes." Did I shake hands with him? No, that would be weird, right? No one in the modern age shakes hands. Or do they? Oh shit, maybe I should have shaken hands with him, but putting my hand out now would be awkward, right? Oh sheesh, had I just completely missed that one? What did he think of me now? Was I a total barbarian in his mind?
"So where's your gate?" he asked, beginning to walk in the direction I had been going in. "Maybe I'll walk you there—I've got time to kill 'cause I'm always paranoid I'm going to miss my flight so I show up super early." He shrugged a little—as much as he could with a backpack on. "I have, like, two hours before my flight."
"Better safe than sorry," I said lamely. "Um. Gate C42."
"Oh, funny—I'm C40. So I'll come chill with you until your flight." He said it so matter-of-factly, like of course he would do that, like people did that every day—just followed people to their flights and sat and talked to them. And maybe people were less afraid of talking to strangers than I was, but that still seemed kind of weird to me. I don't know. Then again, I had been the one to initiate this contact.
"Can I take pictures of you?" I blurted suddenly, then clapped a hand over my mouth again and—you guessed it—blushed again. I coughed a little. "Disregard that, please. I don't–I mean, don't think I'm a creeper, okay? Because I'm not, I just–you're–I mean-"
He held up a hand, laughing. "It's cool. And yeah, you can if you want. I mean, I'm not, like, a model or anything so I don't know why you'd want to, but sure, whatever. My aunt's a photographer, so I've been subject to enough pictures in my life that I'm not really camera-shy anymore—can't be." He did that peculiar shrug again.
Well, at least he didn't think I was creepy—that was a plus. Not that I'd take pictures of him, not even with his permission like that, but at least he wasn't so freaked that he was calling security or running in the opposite direction or anything. Then again, he couldn't really be running in the opposite direction when his gate was right next to mine. Oh sheesh, maybe I had creeped him out but he was too nice to start walking on the other side of the terminal as me. So should I go to the other side of the terminal? Would that be the polite thing to do?
He grinned over (and down) at me. "Hey, what's wrong? You look like I just pole-axed you or something."
I shook my head, hoping the movement jarred my expression back to neutral. "Nothing, sorry."
He shrugged. "Suit yourself." He ran a hand back through his hair. "So what time does your flight leave, anyway?"
I shrugged too, mirroring his gesture. "Forty-five minutes, I think." I checked my watch. "Yeah, forty-five minutes. Gate C42, flight 4357, departing at 9:35 a.m." I winced. "Sorry, that was just for myself—so I wouldn't…forget." Not that I could forget, but that was beside the point.
"Hey, are you one of those people who's nervous about missing his flight too? We can be perpetually-early buddies!"
I blushed, even though he had already admitted that he was the same way. "Well—yeah. Kind of. I don't know, I just am afraid they'll change the gate on me or I'll board the wrong flight and end up who knows where and not know how to get back, which is stupid because it isn't like I don't know how to navigate airports and would be stuck there forever or anything, but I guess I just don't think that way." I was babbling again, babbling like a lunatic. Do lunatics babble?
Oh sheesh, I was babbling to myself now.
"So," he said, wheeling toward the windows and plopping down in a seat, squinting up at me, "You living with friends this year? In dorms? In an apartment?"
Maybe he was a creeper—why did he want to know where I lived? I had been so worried he would think I was a creep that I hadn't thought of the opposite side.
As though sensing what I was thinking, he held up his hands. "Hey, sorry, that was a weird question for someone I just met. I was just curious, you know? I guess all the stupid small-talk my relatives have been subjecting me to all summer has kind of rubbed off on me. They never really know what to say but they know I'm in college so it's the whole, what's your major again, where are you living, what are you doing after school—that whole spiel."
I shrugged and tugged at the strap of my messenger bag. "I'm in a house with four other guys. Never met them before, but I like to think I'm pretty easy-going so I've never really had a problem with roommates. Well, except for sophomore year because my roommate liked to keep beer and pot and hookah and all kinds of stuff like that in our room and I don't do any of that stuff so it was just kind of gross and annoying and, you know, illegal, so." Sheesh, I sounded like such a goody-goody. "I mean, not that I think anything's wrong with doing that stuff even though it's illegal, I just don't do that stuff." The emphasis on that was all wrong. "I mean-"
He held up a hand to cut me off; he was laughing. "Hey, it's cool; I totally get it—I don't do any of that either. I mean, I might drink every once in a while, but I don't party or get drunk or any of that. It's just never seemed like that much fun to me—why would you choose to lose parts of your memory by getting that drunk? If I'm doing something fun, I want to remember it. Plus, I guess I'm a bit of a control-freak." He patted the seat next to him. "So are you going to sit down at some point or what? I mean, you aren't that short."
I blushed and hurriedly sat next to him, then had to stand up and remove my messenger bag and camera bag as they both tangled with the arms of the chair. And I was blushing even more furiously by the time I was through getting things sorted out. Sheesh, I was such a spazz.
He reached over to ruffle my hair again. "Have I mentioned you're hideously cute when you're flustered like that?"
"Are you flirting with me?" Of course that was me—blow the whole game in one idiotic question. He was just being friendly; not everyone was looking for a gay old time like me.
He raised an eyebrow at me. "I would have thought you had realised that by now, but yes, yes I was flirting with you. I'll stop if you want—leave if you want."
It was the first time I'd seen him looking unsure—not that I'd known him for all that long. "No, I mean, don't–I'm just an idiot, you see? I needed, like, confirmation of it. Um. I. Yeah. I don't mind."
His grin was a thousand watts brighter than it had been before. Okay, probably not because that isn't really possible and I don't think teeth get any whiter because of relief, but maybe it was my own relief that made it look at way to me.
"So," I mumbled. "What now?"
"You could start by giving me your phone number," he suggested. "I mean, your plane is boarding and I'd kind of like to talk to you at some point—you seem pretty chill. And Boston isn't that far away from New York—can take public transportation, even, I'm pretty sure. Think I had a cousin once who did it and everything. I mean, I might be wrong, but-" He was blushing. "But now I'm the one who's babbling, aren't I?"
I grinned—this was an odd role-reversal. "Makes me feel like less of an idiot."
"Oh, good, then I guess I should keep babbling." He knocked my shoulder with him. "So, about that phone number…?"
"Oh, right." I pulled out a pen and an index card—they were handy for so many things—and quickly scrawled down my number. "That's me," I said lamely.
"Cool." He looked at it like he was memorising it right then, then snagged the pen out of my hand and wrote "Wes" at the top in all caps.
"Because you get so many numbers?" I asked, hoping I didn't sound quite as bitter as I felt. Could I help it if my heart dropped a little when I saw that?
He blinked between my face and the card then chuckled. "Oh, no. I–don't really like to admit this but I'm kind of horrible with names." He blushed. "Faces, I'm really good with faces. Names, not so much. So. That's to make sure I don't forget. Not that I think I'd forget you, but you know, better safe than sorry—didn't you say that earlier?"
"Oh. Yeah. Cool. Um."
He grabbed my hand and flipped it over so he was writing on the back of it. "That's my number. Now don't wash that hand."
I giggled—I don't know why; it wasn't a sound I think I had ever made before. "Cool, I won't. But you know, at some point I might have to do something with it that will involve me washing it."
He raised an eyebrow. "I…see."
I blushed, getting at what he was implying. "Not like that, just…I mean, I do pottery. Clay's pretty, you know, clay-ish. I don't know."
He chuckled and nudged my shoulder again. "I get it, don't worry." He winked, then stood. "You should probably go, though, right?"
"Oh. Yeah. Right." I narrowed my eyes at him suspiciously. "Are you nervous that I'm going to miss my flight?"
He snorted. "Yeah, right." Then he shoved his hands in his pockets and looked away. "Yeah, kind of." He rocked back and forth a couple times from his heels to his toes. "More than kind of, I guess."
I moved into the line. He grinned and waved. "Keep in touch."
"Yeah," I agreed, grinning at him. "Yeah, you too."