"Unfortunately folks, due to the weather, it looks like we're going to be stuck here for a little bit. We will let you know as soon as we hear more information from flight control, but for now we will start playing our feature movie, so please sit back and relax."
I closed my eyes and sighed as when the flight attendant finished speaking. I disliked almost everything about flying, from the security checks to the smell of airplane cabins. But most of all, I disliked being delayed in the actual airplane, cramped in a stiff seat with only the view of the tarmac.
Looking out of the window, I could just make out the airport gate where I had been waiting twenty minutes ago. The heavy rain fell in unrelenting drops against the plane and blurred everything that I could see from my window.
At least I'll try to sleep, I decided, and leaned my head against the side of the plane.
"Huh?" I sat back up and turned. The guy next to me had spoken.
"Yes Man," he said again and nodded toward the little screen that had just dropped down two rows in front of us. I looked over and saw that a preview of Jim Carrey's movie was showing on the screen.
"Oh, is that what they're playing?" I mumbled, wanting to try to fall asleep again.
"I hope so," the guy said. "It's my favorite movie. Have you seen it?"
I shook my head, "Not so much of a Jim Carrey fan."
"Ah, I see," he said, and then squinted to scrutinize me. "No Jim Carrey? More of the…hm," his mouth twisted to one side as he tried to think.
I bit my lip to prevent from smiling too much. He looked so funny with a frown and his mouth twisted to one side.
He was also quite attractive, I suddenly realized. I had been too busy being annoyed at the delay due to the weather that I had not noticed how handsome the guy sitting next to me was.
"More of a…history channel kind of girl?" he finally said.
I blinked out of pure surprise. He was totally right. I was a secret history nerd, but not even a lot of my friends at school knew that I'd sit in my bed watching documentaries about World War II on Thursday nights.
He laughed, "I'm right!"
"Guilty," I laughed too. "I totally didn't expect you to guess that, but how'd you know?"
He looked at me slyly, "Psychic."
I rolled my eyes.
"And I saw you reading a book on the Battle of the Somme in front of me in the boarding line," he admitted.
I laughed, then cringed from just thinking about the chapter I had been reading. "Worst military offensive ever," I said. Then, I had to ask, just for my curiosity, "Are you a history fan too?"
He shook his head, and I couldn't help but feel a little bit disappointed.
"I'm studying finance," he said, and then seeing the look on my face, "Yes, just like every other person in New York, I'm out there to make the world a worse place."
His tone was totally somber, but he flashed me such a disarming smile at the end of the sentence that I couldn't help but laugh.
"Hey I'm not blaming you," I told him. "Someone's got to understand the numbers."
"I'm guessing you're a college student from the UCLA sweater?" he asked. "Studying history?"
"Psychology, and I'm pre-med" I said. "Well now you have to tell me where you go. You said you're studying finance, so I'm assuming you're a college student too?"
"Guilty," he smiled. He was so attractive I don't know how I didn't notice him earlier, "But I go to school in New York and I was just on vacation in LA, which explains why I'm flying out of JFK. So what brings you here?"
"Eh, interview. It's my senior year and I'm trying to get into med school. But now I'm heading back to UCLA. What are you flying to LA for?"
"My sister's having a baby," he told me and shook his head, as if still incredulous at the idea. "So I'm going to visit. That, and I wanted to watch Yes Man on the tarmac of course."
I laughed. "Jim Carrey fan?"
"Huge Jim Carrey fan. Dumb and Dumber, Fun with Dick and Jane, and don't even get me started on Liar Liar," he went on. "But even if you're not a Jim Carrey fan, I think you'd like this one. It's about a man who says yes to everything. Really made me want to change my life and take more opportunities."
I was about to laugh, but then I realized that he was actually being serious. I looked at the screen. The movie was starting and they were dimming the lights in the plane cabin. He had already turned to the screen, engrossed in the movie.
Eh, why not. I shrugged and plugged in my headphones to tune in to the movie channel.
It was surprisingly good. I could understand why he liked it so much. I was determined to ride on a motorcycle and learn to play guitar before the movie was halfway through.
Once, I started to get up to use the restroom, but he tapped me lightly on my arm before I was fully out of my seat.
"Wait," he leaned over and whispered in my ear while keeping his eyes on the screen. "You're about to miss the best part. Third Eye Blind, Jumper."
I had no idea what any of that meant, but his whisper had sent a shiver through my body. I swallowed and sat back down. This was ridiculous. I had just met this guy on an airplane in the JFK airport nonetheless. He was just really attractive, and I hadn't kissed a boy since Trent broke up with me four months ago. It was nothing, I decided.
Near the end of the movie we were finally cleared for takeoff, but I couldn't really focus on either that or the movie too much. All I could think about was the fact that I was attracted to some guy I had just met in an airplane. Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.
We didn't talk too much for the rest of the ride, between the movie and me falling asleep afterwards, but as we got up to get out of the plane in LA, he leaned over and smiled that ridiculously charming smile again.
"It was nice to meet you," he said and then stuck out his hand, "I'm Charlie."
I shook his hand back. "It was nice to meet you, Charlie. I'm Elizabeth."
I thought that was the end of that until almost exactly a month later, in October at O'Hare Airport in Chicago.
"Elizabeth!" I heard my name through security checkpoint. The TSA personnel whipped their heads around at the disturbance, and I could see the guy with the golden brown hair duck his head sheepishly.
"Oh my gosh, Charlie!" I couldn't contain my surprise and nearly dropped my Ziploc bag of three ounce liquid containers.
"Ma'am, you're next!" the TSA official barked and I had to step back in line, as sheepish as Charlie was just a minute ago.
I waited for him right outside the checkpoint though, and as soon as he stepped through, both of us burst out at the same time, "What are you doing here?"
"My best friend goes to school at Northwestern," I told him.
"Fall break. I was just at home for the past week," he said, and then to answer my quizzical look. "I'm not from New York. I just go to school there. Chicago born and bred."
We were both fairly early for our respective flights to JFK and LAX, and so we decided to sit down with a large bag of Garrett Popcorn.
I found out that Charlie was a senior in college who wanted to become a finance professor. He had seen every movie with Morgan Freeman in it and had learned French for six years. He loved everything about deep dish pizza and everything Chicago. His favorite place in the world though, was Grand Central Station in New York right before Christmas.
He asked me if I had stopped by the Art Institute of Chicago. They had a new exhibit on propaganda art from WWII, he said. I hadn't stopped by, but he described the exhibit to me so vividly that I felt like I had not missed too much. He loved it, he told me. I secretly hoped that this was the first step to his becoming a history nerd like me.
By the time the popcorn was nearly finished, they were calling for his flight.
"Well, that's my plane," he said, and he looked truly sorry to leave, or at least I had hoped so. I was crazy, I told myself as that thought crossed my mind, absolutely crazy.
He grabbed his suitcase, turned to go seemed to think for a moment about it, and then turned back to say, "I'm glad I was stuck on the tarmac next to you that day."
I smiled, genuinely happy. "I'm really glad too!"
He paused, as if debating something with himself, and then plunged on. "You know," he said, "I'm glad we were watching Yes Man. I thought you were really cute and wouldn't want to talk to me, but then I realized that I've got to be like Jim Carrey. I've got to jump on every opportunity that life throws my way.
Then, before I could even digest that long enough untwist the knots that had formed in my stomach and come up with a reply, he ran off to catch the final boarding call for his flight.
I had another interview, this time in Houston. It was late November, and I had quite a few second rounds but still no acceptances. Still early, I told myself, even though the girl who sat next to me in biochemistry had already gotten two offers, she said. Overachiever.
I looked at my pamphlet about Baylor and closed my eyes. Just let me get into med school.
"Did you know about the echo domes?"
I opened my eyes and nearly screamed. Charlie was bent down, and his face was so close to mine that I threw my head back against the back of the chair out of sheer instinctive reaction.
"What the heck?" I sputtered out in a half shout, half laugh. The people next to us actually physically turned around to stare at us. I was making a habit out of embarrassing myself at airports, especially when I ran into Charlie all the time.
He laughed, "Looks like we're fated to run into each other all the time, huh?"
I smiled. "Just at airports. What brings you to Houston?"
"Transfer flight. I've got a two hour layover between New York and Chicago. Going home a little early for Thanksgiving this year."
I frowned. "Wait, you've got a layover in Houston for a flight between New York and Chicago? How is that possible?"
He shrugged, "Cheapest flights," and then he suddenly grinned, "but it's good because that means I got to run into you."
I had to fight to prevent myself from dwelling on his words and blushing.
"Must be your lucky day," I told him. "What were you saying about the echo domes?"
"Ahh," he began, and my eyes fell on his suitcase for a moment. Property of Charles A. Elliot was scrawled in a neat blue ink on a tag. "Come on, do you have time? I'll take you."
Then, without warning, he grabbed my hand and dragged me up. I wasn't boarding for at least 20 more minutes, so I didn't complain. I was surprised, though, that when I had got up, he still didn't let go of my hand. Instead, he led me away from my gate and toward the central walkways of the airport, next to the shops where the hustle and bustle of the crowd was.
This stranger I had kept bumping into was holding my hand, and I couldn't help but think about how much I liked it. I could feel my heartbeat speed up, and I silently scolded myself. Leave it to Elizabeth Lane to develop a crush on a guy she's only met at airports. With my love life success rate, I'm not surprised that this was how it turned out.
"Ok, stop," he told me suddenly. We were right outside of an intersection between the walkways of the airport.
I stepped into the center, and Charlie followed me.
"Hello, hello, helloooooooooo," he said, and his voice bounced off the domed roof of Intercontinental Bush Airport. He wasn't lying about the echo effect, that's for sure.
"Hello!" I raised my voice and heard it bouncing back on us.
I turned to look at Charlie with a silly grin on my face, but he had an equally sillier one. Then, at the same time, we both looked down on our intertwined hands and became aware that we had not let each other go.
I turned a beet red. I could not even look at him. My only saving grace was the fact that, out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Charlie's face had tinted red as well.
We let go of each other almost instantly.
There was one awkward pause that seemed to drag on. I knew we were in the center of an intersection, and that we were probably in everyone's way. Yet, in that moment, I could not be aware of anything else, not the people rushing by with their travel size rolling suitcases, not the carts that honked at us and had to swerve around because neither of us moved, and not the people who passed by with sly looks at us because we were two twenty something year olds blushing in the middle of an airport.
"Ah, what the heck, I'll just say it," Charlie suddenly spoke and broke the silence. "I don't know why, but I think I liked you from the moment I saw you sitting in the airport reading your Battle of the Somme book at JFK. You were perched on the top of your seat, biting your sleeve and frowning as you read. I thought you were really cute. I remember standing in line behind you and reading your seat number over your shoulder. 23A," he smiled nervously. "I had a 23B ticket. I had never been so happy to sit in the middle seat of an airplane ever."
I looked at him, completely caught off guard by all that he was telling me. He was waiting for me to say something, I knew, but as of that moment I could barely even find my voice, much less get a coherent sentence out.
23A, I kept thinking. I remember that seat.
"Final boarding call for flight 1853 to Los Angeles. We are boarding all rows at this time," the voice over the system called. It struck me that they were calling my flight. "Final boarding call for flight 1853 to Los Angeles. All passengers must board at this time."
I looked at Charlie, waiting expectantly for me to something.
"I, I have to go," I stuttered. I cringed inwardly at the brief moment of disappointment that passed over his face before he smiled at me once again, but I could tell that this smile was just for show.
"Have a good trip," he said, his voice very soft.
I wanted to say more, but I was too shocked to say anything. The guy I met and had a crush on at the airport liked me back? Say something, say something, I willed myself. But I my tongue seemed to be glued to the room of my mouth. Say something, anything. Anything.
But nothing came out.
"Final boarding call for flight 1853 to Los Angeles," the voiceover came again.
I had to run, I knew, but Charlie's look of disappointment as he stood in the middle of the echo dome was on my mind all throughout that flight back home.
I had tried to find Charlie Elliot online, but to no avail. There were simply too many Charlie Elliots, and I realized that although I knew that he was from New York, I had no idea what school he went to.
I should've said something, anything but "I have to go." I had hoped to run into him again at another airport. But I flew again twice after that for interviews, once to Washington DC, the other to San Francisco, but he was at neither airport when I was there. I felt silly for hoping, even looking for the boy with the golden brown hair and the way too charming smile at an airport, any airport that I went to, but I couldn't help it.
My last flight of the semester was the one back home for winter break, to San Francisco.
SFO had the decorations for the holiday season. The shops had bows, fake presents were scattered in various locations, and there were even a couple of trees lying around.
I was excited to be home. I had just gotten an acceptance letter from UCSF, which had been my top choice for medical school. I had literally squealed in excitement when I was notified but had somehow managed to hold off telling my parents until I saw them in person. I don't know how I was able to keep such a secret for a day, much less for the past week, but now I was bursting to tell them.
My walk out of the airplane was quick. I was practically running to baggage claim, where I knew my family would be waiting.
I was almost at the escalators leading to baggage claim when I noticed him.
There he was, Charlie Elliot walking out of his gate, his head bent down as he tried to stuff something in the pockets of his coat.
I stood there, mesmerized by the sight. Maybe he was right. Maybe it was fate that I kept running into him at all these airports.
Charlie looked up and saw me and stopped in his tracks out of pure surprise. His eyes widened, and then he smiled that smile I could never really get out of my mind all this semester.
Before I could help it, I blurted out, "I like you too!"
Charlie blinked and stared at me.
I wanted to slap myself. What was I thinking?
His next movements totally caught me by surprise, however. He bent over double, laughing so hard that he could barely breathe.
I knew my face was beet red again, but this time I could care less. I was so mortified, and now he was laughing at me. For all I knew, what happened between us in Houston could've been a total joke, and here I was again, making a fool of myself.
He finally looked up. He had a huge smile on his face, but I was too upset to say anything.
Finally, he pointed his index finger up.
I looked up, and there it was, one of the many holiday decorations in SFO. Only this one made my face turn even redder if possible.
I tore my eyes from the mistletoe and looked back at Charlie, "Oh no, we don't, that's, I, that's," I sputtered out.
Charlie smiled even wider and took a step towards me.
"Thank goodness," he said, and then bent down and kissed me, right in the middle of the San Francisco airport.
I let go of my luggage and threw my arms around him. Some passerby behind us whooped, but the kiss felt so good that I barely noticed.
When we let go, we were both slightly out of breath. I had a big, giddy smile on my face, I knew, but Charlie didn't seem too unhappy either.
"Is San Francisco your final destination?" he asked.
"It is for winter break, and I'm coming here for med school. Is it yours?"
He nodded, then grinned, "I'm a December grad, moving here for graduate school."
I swallowed, taking the information in. Charlie, meanwhile, had bent down to read the nametag on my suitcase.
"Elizabeth Lane," he said.
I smiled, "That's me."
"Well, Elizabeth Lane, I think all these airports are trying to tell us something."
"Maybe they are," I laughed in agreement.
"Do you believe in soul mates?"
I shook my head, "Not at all."
"Thank goodness, neither do I," Charlie rolled his eyes, "I do however, believe in airport soul mates."
I could only laugh in response.
"Would you like to go to dinner with me sometime?" he asked.
I grinned and took his hand.
"Only if it's not in the airport."