Let me tell you a story about when a fantasy presented itself, and I miserably missed my chance to make it come true:
My life, as I feared, had become a consistent state of uncomfortableness. I realized this as I sat in a windowless window seat of a plane that was too painfully warm. It reminded me of those silent nights I spent at summer camp where I longed to be anywhere but there in that wooden bunk and soggy sleeping bag. My row mate allowed me to exit the plane before him, and he smiled as I remembered what he told me when we first sat down at the beginning of this flight: “I’m so glad you’re not fat.”
I had done this so many times before. This airport, though it boasted that it was international, was smaller than my apartment complex. There was one Starbucks, no McDonalds, and washed up country stars reminded you over loud speaker to keep your luggage with you at all times.
For the past year I have been living in this small southern town that was constantly dusty and had a dampness you could swim through. Standing in line for the bus to the parking lot I could feel the pollution make its familiar home in my nostrils. I resisted the urge to sneeze.
The bus piled in more than it could hold, and I took a seat on a stained polyester bench. I could touch the person across from me if I reached a hand out. A loud, young man on his cell phone elbowed his way on the bus at the very last minute and took the remaining seat. He could’ve been a bodybuilder or an army reserve kid stationed at the base a half an hour out of town. A book was in his right hand.
I tried to ignore this public disturbance, but when he hung up the phone I noticed the blue eyes behind his hipster glasses. He was halfway through an autobiography. I didn’t want to be attracted to this annoyance; it was incredibly cliche. I tried to focus on the stuffiness of the bus. I let myself acknowledge the layer of plane scum on my skin. I dreamt of a hot shower.
And then I pictured him in the shower with me; I had to open my eyes. To my surprise, his eyes met mine.
I looked away and tried to seem casual, but I could feel the oil collect on my upper lip. The southern heat made me a greasy mess, and I’m sure after two flights and a bus ride I looked just like the grill after rush hour at Earl’s Fried Chicken.
One by one our bus mates got off at their stops until it was just us two. How perfect; how convenient; how storybook! The one time my life mimics a movie and it’s when I smell like stale air and other people’s farts.
“Where’d you fly in from?” he asked, trying to fill the silence.
He said something to me! For once a fantasy of mine was coming true in real life.
“Atlanta,” I said. There was some silence, and for some reason I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I could feel my handsome airport-stranger fantasy slipping away, and I said the very first thing that came to mind.
“Well, technically Orlando. I had a connection. To Atlanta, obviously. But I didn’t spend time there,” I sputtered.
He nodded, then looked out the window. I so terribly wanted to disappear. This was my moment to say something witty or clever, and I might as well have bit my tongue off and handed it to him.
“I was in Disney World,” I continued, thinking I could save this encounter by giving him more information than he needed, “for my birthday. With my sister. But she lives in Indiana, so she went there instead.”
I could see the light leave his eyes, but I just couldn’t stop. It was my Mean Girls moment; my word vomit hell.
“She doesn’t actually live here, she just goes to college there. I’m not in college though,” I shrugged as if to make that statement any less unordinary.
If it weren’t rude to, I’m sure he would have moved seats to get away from me.
The bus came to my stop and I quickly stood up. I needed to escape this nightmare that I had created for myself.
“You have a good night,” he smiled.
“You, too,” I sputtered, grabbing my bag and running off. I didn’t even look back. Did I just travel back to the seventh grade? Since when did I have issues talking to boys?
As I pulled my damp bag to my car down row 441, I went over the last few minutes in my head like a sports replay. I should’ve just asked him where he was flying in from. I should’ve asked if he was staying out at the reserve base nearby. I should’ve made him do the talking. I probably could have just kissed him instead! Anything other than listening to me desperately make conversation.
The windows on my car were moist, and I had to use my hand to wipe the fog away. I would have wiped myself away if I could have.