As we get closer to the actual migration of my blog to Wordpress, and all that comes with it, I've been trying to keep my posts to the bare minimum when it comes to photos, and trying to keep them on the, well, on the "not as verbose" side. Ha! That's not likely to happen. Anyhow, as I've been working on what has actually evolved into a book, a book that was started by this very post that I wrote nearly 4 years ago, I thought I'd re-post this, and later this week, I'll post the second part. Years later people still read this post and ask me, "Well Audrey, did he kiss you?"
I guess you'll just have to keep reading to find out!
Sometimes I sit back and wistfully think about the very first time Gareth and I met face-to-face.
We'd spent more than 20 years prior to that moment writing back and forth. From innocent letters that two kids, on the cusp of becoming teenagers - no less teenagers in other countries - wrote to one another, letters written on the lightest of airmail paper, filled with silly musings and even sillier questions about life in the UK vs. life in the US, to eventually letters heavy with words of a deepening friendship, and then almost exactly 20 years after that very first letter crossed the Atlantic, to letters of a blossoming romance.
The letters eventually turned to emails and instant messages which grew into phone calls. The phone calls turned to talk of travels from England to the U.S. about an upcoming holiday that Gareth would be taking to the east coast; he wondered if I wouldn't mind being his "tour guide."
We used to take turns phoning one another, and I'll never forget how utterly confounded I was when it came to trying to dial another country. It eventually became second nature, but I can't help but laugh when I think about how many wrong numbers it took, and how many times I had to ask the operator for help, dialing the UK.
From those giggly (on my part...I was so in awe of his accent) first few phone calls to the later, longer, all-night conversations, it soon became obvious that I was becoming more than the role of just a "tour guide." E-mails that flew over the invisible wires of the Internet which were closed with "Love", evolved into "Love you." We were close friends but under the surface there was something more there. Gareth became my confidant, the one I'd turn to when things went pear-shaped. He was the rock I was starting to lean on more and more. As time passed I began to understand that all those years spent as children writing back and forth to each other; many of them were spent leaning on him in one way or another, were years spent building the foundation for the greatest love of my life.
Gareth, no matter what sort of boulder life threw in my path, always remained steadfast and never faltered.
Today, that very first face-to-face moment in the airport seems so inconsequential, but back in October of 2002 it seemed like my entire life pivoted on that very first gaze into one anothers eyes. Now, instead of a letter arriving into my eagerly waiting hands, he would be there. Standing there. In front of me. We knew we had deep feelings for one another, yet we were both nervous about the initial personal meeting. Do we hug? Would he kiss me? Do I offer my hand? I made such a monumental ordeal out of it all. Sure, we'd exchanged photos over the years, but I was always careful to crop out everything below my chest. He knew I'd gained a great deal of weight after Joshua's death and I'd warned him, several times in advance, that I would be "...the elephant in a black silk skirt, gray sweater and black cami, standing at the bottom of the "Arrivals" escalator.." the day that he arrived.
I don't know if Gareth ever fully realized how nervous I was?
Because I am suffering from the mother of all cases of "Writer's Block" I decided to write a little prologue to what I am about to share with you.
It seems like I have kept a journal from the time I could hold a fat yellow Number 2 pencil in my hand, to the moment before I opened up a new blank field in order to write this post. I write everything down. You'd think, being that I have chronicled my life so carefully that I'd be better at writing down other things...things like to-do lists, but alas, I am not. Anyhow, the following was written in "third-person"...something I rarely do, but for some reason, when I was writing about our first meeting, I wrote it down as if I were someone on the peripheral, watching the events unfold in front of me. I know writers are always told that you should never write in third person because you can't engage your readers. Despite that little rule, I hope you are engaged by this entry and I hope that my Writer's Block passes soon and without having to use something akin to ExLax to "get me going again!"
October 6, 2002
She was grateful for the cool weather of the early October afternoon as she pulled her black pickup truck into the parking stall at the airport. She had been fretting about her make-up running and looking sweaty and sticky and right now, at this moment in time, if she looked calm, cool, and collected, maybe that would belie the fact that butterflies were doing acrobatics in her stomach and that she was nervous as hell. She pictured big brightly colored Monarch butterflies doing loop-d-loops, flips, and swings in her belly as she checked her reflection in the rear-view mirror one last time before unbuckling her seat belt and getting out of the truck.
As she climbed down from the drivers seat, the whoosh of cool air was a welcome comfort. She slammed the truck door and walked out from under the parking garage into the open just as dusk was beginning to settle around her. The sun was setting to her west and his plane would be arriving from the east in a little over ten minutes.
The click-slip of her heels across the blacktop made her wish she'd taken the time to scuff the bottoms of her shoes so that she didn't slip and fall. That's all she needed on top of her nerves - to look scraped up and disheveled with a couple of bruises thrown in for good measure. Miraculously she didn't slip, trip or have any other major catastrophes on her way into the airport. She even managed to navigate the revolving doors without getting stuck, or circling around repeatedly as she tried to escape. She had suffered from lifelong issues with things like revolving doors and turnstiles due to her lack of coordination. Thankfully this wasn't a problem...this time around.
She reached into the side pocket of her purse to pull out a copy of the email he'd sent her with his flight details. She searched around her for a screen with arrival information and easily found his flight. Originally his flight was due in at 4:12PM and now it was arriving at 4:19PM. She counted herself lucky that she had seven extra minutes to make sure she looked her best. Walking towards the escalator they had earlier agreed to meet near, she found the comfy black leather chairs and sat down. She immediately stood up again when she realized she hadn't straightened out her skirt before sitting. Now, seated again, she rummaged through her purse for her compact. She glanced at her cell phone to check the time. 4:09PM. Allowing time for him to deplane (he'd already gone through Customs in Newark and had texted her to let her know he'd arrived safely in the U.S.), and reach the top of the escalator, she calculated she had about twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes is a long time to obsess about how one looks, or to notice everything around you, down to the minute detail about how the grout in the tile used in this part of the airport needed a good cleaning. She admired how spotless the windows which spanned one entire wall, were. She could see the planes arriving at their designated gates and watched passengers from other flights ride down the escalator into the waiting arms of loved ones. She smiled to herself when one woman handed an unruly toddler with a mop of bright red hair to his father - with a matching cap of bright, red hair, who looked like he'd been on a long flight and could use a cold beer. The little boy was happy to see his daddy and even happier if his daddy would just take one little lick of the ooey, gooey, lollipop that the toddler had been enjoying just a few minutes earlier.
Behind the redhead senior and junior was an elderly gentleman dressed in pressed gray wool slacks, a pale blue button-down shirt with a stiff navy blue bow tie next to his tanned weather-worn neck. Perched atop a full head of shockingly white hair sat a navy blue bowler hat. As he passed by her she could smell the lingering scents of cherry pipe tobacco and Old Spice after shave. Not long after he passed her he walked into the waiting arms of an elderly lady dressed in a green linen dress with little red cherries adorning the collar and waist of her dress. Her long silver hair was gathered back in a tight chignon about her neck with little red cherry hair pins tucked into the side. The elderly gentleman in the bowler hat pulled a package from his carry-on satchel. As the gentleman placed the package in the hands of the woman, in a thick eastern European accent he said, "For my Mishie, from her Bunna." There were tears in the woman's eyes as she clutched this precious cargo to her bosom.
She looked away from the elderly couple and glanced down at her cell phone. It was now 4:32PM. She'd been so enveloped in watching everything around her that she had given over little time to worry about the man who was now making his way toward the escalator. Her lipstick? Was it too much? Was it gaudy? Should she wipe it off quickly in exchange for a light brush of some lip-gloss or would he be repulsed by the flavor of strawberries and mint? Would he even kiss lips that look like they'd been slicked in olive oil? Would he kiss her, period? What if he extended his hand and didn't even lean in for a hug? Was that a sign of rejection? How could she spend two entire weeks showing this man around New England if he was so repulsed by her and why didn't she have a back-up plan for any type of "rejection" or "lack of chemistry" scenario?
She chided herself for her silly daydreams of their first kiss and the embrace that would surround it. She felt all of 12 years old just thinking about it. But the truth was, she did think about it. She longed for it and felt as if a million sparklers were going off inside her as she imagined his soft lips pressed against hers.
Oh sure, they'd talked about the fact that in the end, there might not be any sort of romantic connection but she didn't pay attention, no not at all, not until right this minute when she thought she had an entire airplane full of butterflies fluttering around her insides and if she dared open her mouth, several might escape. She felt very nearly ill at the thought of being rejected. Her stomach did a mighty flop as she stared at the gray steps of the escalator as they passed under the floor to begin their ascent to the top.
She looked up to the top of the escalator and clutched her purse to her side. She dug her fingernails into the soft brown leather of the straps and took a deep breath in. He was there, about to step foot onto the escalator going down. He was smiling and his blue eyes, dear God his blue eyes. She didn't think she'd ever seen eyes so blue in her entire life.
Everything around her stopped. The escalator stopped it's revolving dance, the jet plane engines ceased their roar in the background, there was no excited chatter from children running into the arms of arriving loved ones, the rolling cart of the janitor behind them seemed to float by on the air rather than make the thwump, thwump thwump as it passed behind them. There wasn't any noise around them at all except for the slow exhalation as she remembered that she needed to breath.
He walked towards her, smiling and she couldn't believe he was finally here, in the flesh. So many years spent reading his written words and now, here he was standing in front of her...