" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

October 17, 2007

A Stranger's Insights

I've become a lot better at paying attention to chance meetings. One of those occurred in June. I was settling in on a plane flying back from New Mexico with a stop in Dallas Fort Worth. A woman in her early 50s excused herself, moved past me on the aisle seat and wedged herself into the middle seat. A cute, young guy, dark hair, dark eyes and a pea cap was quietly staring out the window in our row to complete our threesome of strangers. He was quiet and mysterious and so cute he made me feel like the cougar that I would be for thinking the thoughts I was thinking.

The woman and I struck up a conversation immediately and it was one of those connections that was instantaneous, easy, meandering and interesting. Three hours passed in no time at all even with an unexpected landing in Wichita Falls Texas (yes, not Kansas) when Dallas, Fort Worth was temporarily closed due to heavy rains. I remember that made me laugh when the pilot announced that. Heavy rains I thought. What do they know about heavy rains in Texas? And, I smile, somewhat sadly, as I listen to that familiar sound outside as the monsoons have already set in now.

Her name is Nancy. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. I remember that we were chatting and I couldn't help but notice that the cute guy was listening intently in the way you know when someone is hanging on every word of a conversation. Finally, I engaged him in some way. And then, that was all it took. I can't recall exactly the way it unfolded but Nancy was no slouch at doing the tag team interview and she discovered that he had been visiting his parents in Santa Fe but he lived in New York. His parents wanted him in Santa Fe but he was captivated by life in New York and he seemed very mysterious. In fact, he worked in a restaurant in New York which she wrote down because she seemed to be an avid traveller and she thought she might have an opportunity to check it out. She was just returning from a road trip through Colorado with a college girlfriend.

I remember that for some reason I was a really nervous flyer this time and every time we landed my hand would reach out for her arm in an inadvertent way. Her calmness calmed me. In fact, I remember I thought, because I was having such thoughts, that if anything was to happen to this plane, I wouldn't mind exiting the planet with these two by my side, and how we could all hold hands as it was going down.

We have kept in touch in an ad hoc way before events in my summer derailed me from keeping up the correspondence and just tonight I sent her an e-mail.

I hadn't written her since early August when I had told her about someone from my past who had contacted me. When she heard the story, she had said just four words in an e-mail: Make Him History Now! I remember thinking that was pretty harsh and judgmental and forward coming from a stranger who didn't even know me. Or him. Didn't know the circumstances. Didn't know anything about him.

I had sent her an e-mail saying, Why are you saying this? I'm not being sarcastic, I just really want to know. Are you psychic? She said, no, just a feeling, just a knowing. "You, Ms. Gayle, have a better life ahead of you." I remember she said that with such conviction in an e-mail, like someone who knew me way better than she did and I remember being taken aback.

Tonight she wrote me back, telling me to send her my phone number so we could talk in person. And then she said something that I think is just a wonderful premise for a story. She said that the three of us - her, me and Carlos - the young guy - will be forever connected in her mind. She is about to head off to New York with her college roommates and she's thinking of checking out the restaurant where he works.

She says that in her mind she has a fantasy that we three all meet in New York and "finish the story". "I'd love to hear the rest of it," she says. But, you can't I think ...it's a work in progress: Our lives.

Then she adds, "Isn't it weird how small life circumstances can grow to gigantic proportions in our minds" and I lingered on that statement thinking how I knew what she meant in more ways than she would ever know.