Traveling alone has always brought contradicting emotions in Zooey. The moment she parted from friends and family, that gate that ended physical interaction, was always a moment of held back tears and a big lump in her throat.
Then once the gate was crossed and she was alone she felt suddnly independent, despite her was already 23 years, she felt the world in her hands.
So once she had found her boarding gate, after the one on her ticket turned out to have been changed, she sat on the nearest chair to the boarding gate – she always felt the urge to get on the plane first and secure space for her trolley- opened her science fiction book that seemed to never end and turned on her iPod.
When her red trolley was securely under her legs and her hand bag safe under her arm, she started reading while Linkin Park distracted her from time to time. Occasionally she would look at people passing by or the ones laughing and talking in front of her, thinking she too could socially engage with someone, but would rather not. And since decisions were hers to make, she decided not to.
After reading three pages she shut the book and decided Linkin Park won over science fiction and that reading outside her comfort zone of classic romantic literature and love stories was not working for her. She was enjoying the vampiric apocalypse Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain described and it was a fast read too to start with, but knowing that somewhere in her bookshelf a heroine was waiting to meet her future lover whom she would hate first than tremendously fall in love with, was more intriguing despite its lack of originality.
It was when her mind had gone back to when she was reading Wuthering Heights for the fifth time – and how she had enjoyed it like it was the first time - that she noticed a man standing in front of her staring. Her whole body went on alert, the hair on her skin standing as she her father’s usual list of many don’ts suddenly came into her mind.
Don’t talk to strangers or take anything from strangers. Even if the ask to guard their bag while they are at the bathroom. Don’t take any kind of food, even if it’s closed.
As she prepared herself to give the “what do you want” look she always reserved for people who approached her unexpectedly. She realized that man looked familiar and Zooey’s face relaxed as the man came forward smiling.
“Zooey?” As the man gently smiled, Zooey seemed to have lost the use of words, her mouth remained half-opened, while her mind was wondering what were the chances of meeting your ex in an airport, after more than five years of no contacts.
“K-Kevin hi!” She blushed and stood to greet him then crossed her arms and forced a smile as her mind inevitably went back to the moment of their break up and how she had screamed to him on the phone not to call her again. Ever.
Feeling embarrassed and uneasy she sat and to her discomfort, he sat next to her.
“How are you doing? You look good!” He rested his elbows on his knees and titled his head to look at her. She looked away and smiled, thankful for the few minutes she spent in the airport bathroom to put some make up on, before heading to the boarding gate.
“I’m good. What about you?” She tried to shift the attention on him, and it worked for he looked away and stared at his clasped hands in front of him.
“Am alright.” As he played with his fingers, Zooey noticed a shining golden strip on his finger.
“You’re married.” She said before she even realized. He smiled and played with it with his thumb before nodding.
“I don’t know if you remember,” he started after a pause still looking at his hands, “but I once told you I had a dream where we would meet after long in an airport…”
“And I had blue eyes., yes.They are still brown.” she added trying to lessen the tense atmosphere. He forced a laugh and nodded.
“Yes. Well, it was a dream.”
Now Zooey had hoped she still had the book open and was reading, for if she was, Kevin would probably not have noticed her and if he did, he might not have even talked to her. The more silent they remained, the stronger memories come rushing into her head. Memories of when she met him for the first time in high school. Memories of when she realized she liked him. And memories of how they had parted and the harsh words she said and didn’t regret. She also remember how, more than once, her conscience took the best of her and she tried to apologize, never directly, but through messages. And how he had listen to what she had said to him and never replied to her apologies.
“Listen Kevin…” she started then stopped thinking of changing the subject, but the words were already in her mouth. “I’m sorry how it…you know ended…”
Remembering the wedding ring, she felt that maybe this wasn’t appropriate now that he was married.
“Yea…” he said playing with his ring, “well…it happens.” He sighed and forced a smile. ” We were on different stages of our relationship. I wanted to get more serious and you didn’t.”
Zooey raised an eyebrow something inside her snapping; was he putting the blame all on her?
“I was 18…” she said in a matter of fact tone trying hard to sound calm, “and it’s not like we had a…relationship.”
Kevin looked at her smiling and troubled.
“I mean when I moved to college, we only talked over the phone.” she hastily justified, “and even before, we rarely really met alone.”
He looked back at his hands still smiling and saying nothing.
Zooey felt worse now, but decided to continue with her apologies.
“But I shouldn’t have been that hard on you.” She said rolling her eyes without Kevin noticing.
“You know I was really serious about us. About marriage.” He looked at her, his eyes fixed on hers for the unspoken answer he wished for. But Zooey looked away blushing and shaking her head.
“I was serious about us too” she said, “at first at least. I mean I really liked you. Even when I confessed to you and you sent me off to Mike saying he likes me too and I should be with him.”
“That was a mistake. I think I apologised for it.”
“Yes yes you did. But it wasn’t nice anyways.”
Silence seemed to have taken over the airport; Zooey could hear only her thoughts and memories and people’s voices seemed far and distant.
“You know…” he started while playing his ring, “I still don’t know what went wrong between us. Why it ended I mean.”
Zooey sighed for she expected this to come.
“I don’t know Kevin. I was 18 and going to college. You wanted to get married. I freaked out.” She turned to look at him. “I didn’t feel what we had, was a relationship. Don’t get me wrong I was happy.” She quickly added, “But you never even tried to…kiss me.”
He smiled not looking at her and for a moment hid his face in his hands. His ring shining.
“I mean I know we had been together for a short time and I really liked how you respected me and everything.” she shook her head, “but sometimes I wished you could just push me against the wall…” she blushed hesitating as his ring caught the shadow of someone passing by.
Damn it Zooey, shut the hell up. She thought as she stared at the opening gate time and wished two hours would magically disappeared.
“That-that was inappropriate, I’m sorry.”
“No no it’s fine. At least now I know.” He looked at her, “I thought I was do the right thing with you, you know.” he laughed, “I wanted to push you against the wall every time I saw you. And not just to kiss you.”
Zooey opened her mouth but shut it again her body suddenly becoming hot.
“I thought…I was respecting you. Giving you the time you needed. I wanted to do things right with you.”
“I know I know.” Zooey said scratching her forehead. “We wanted the same things but in different ways I guess.”
He turned and looked her “what do you mean?” he asked smiling wryly.
Zooey smiled blushing and scratching her forehead even harder.
“Nothing, so where are you headed?” She asked trying to change the subject.
“Oh come on!” Kevin insisted punching gently her arm. Zooey laughed shaking her head and feeling her cheeks on flames.
“Oh come one! its more than five years ago! We didn’t talk back then, why not do it now?” He insisted and she could feel he was trying to catch her eyes.
“You are married now.”
“What did you want?”
“What did you want?”
“Zooey, what did you want?” He repeated.
“Damn it Kevin,” she snapped, she lowered her voice now turning toward him “I wanted you to kiss me. I wanted you to touch me. I wanted to have sex with you. I didn’t want you just to respect me but to want me also. Happy now?”
Kevin remained speechless his mouth slightly opened. Zooey bit her lower lip nervously. Their lives had taken different directions; he was now married and she was to begin her new life in another country. Was all of this necessary?
Zooey looked at her watch and stood up.
“I-I need to get something before I leave,” She grabbed her bag and pulled her trolley, “It was nice seeing you Kevin. Have a safe trip.” Before he could answer she left heading for no place in particular. She headed for the stairs, far from his sight, and decide she would decide then where to go and hide for the next two hours before she could get on that plane and forget this encounter ever happened.
But before she could reach the stairs, she felt her arm pulled backward. She turned around and Kevin was holding her arm. She opened her mouth to protest, rather irritated but he took her face in his hands and kissed gently then passionately.
When they parted he didn’t look at her, instead he took her hand and walked her behind him. Zooey had just the time to rationally remember to get hold of the trolley and pull it with her. Her mind seemed distant, its sounds too faint now that her heart was echoing loud in her ears. Kevin stopped in front of a door, looked around, then pulled her inside, check if there was someone, then locked the door and went to stand away from her.
Zooey stood by the locked door petrified, the trolley still in her sweaty hand, looking at Kevin. He had his hands in his hair, his tormented face fixed on the dark marble tile floor. When their eyes met, he walked toward her. She instinctively stepped back, her head bumping the door first, then her body.
Kevin didn’t hesitate he kissed her again passionately on her lips, her cheeks, her neck. The few times he paused, Zooey was able to think rationally, but the pauses became less frequent and soon Zooey found herself losing her rational mind and kissing him back.
As they kissed, he moved her toward the sinks, and lifted her onto the counter. He started unbuttoning his white shirt and she pulled off her grey t-shirt. He stopped, looking at her then pulled her against him, hip to hip and kissed her as he unbuttoned her jeans. Zooey pulled him closer her hands over his chest, his back, his arms, then again on his chest. He pulled away, his fingertips over her cheek—pausing to circle her mouth—and stared at her before kissing her again, his hands reaching under her bra.
Her legs were on either side of him; her ankles crossed behind his back while her hands busy in his hair, her fingers wrapping in and pulling him closer.
Except for the occasional call for passengers they faintly heard from behind the door, all they could hear was their heavy breathing on each other’s skins.
When they parted, Kevin gently lifted her off the counter and stepped away, his hands in his hair. Zooey entered a cabin taking some of her clothes on her way. She took a moment to breathe, her mind still intoxicated, then pulled up her jeans and went out of the cabin to look for the rest of her clothes. They dressed silently and as Zooey put back on her t-shirt, she noticed Kevin’s wedding ring, shining, despite the dim light.
She was heading for the door when Kevin pulled her back into his arms and kissed intensely. Their eyes met. She kissed him back, then parted without a word while he was still embracing her. She took her bag and her trolley, unlocked the door and exited.
She headed back to her boarding gat and was almost surprised to find her seat still empty. She sat. Turned on her iPod. Opened her book, but didn’t look at it.
Now not even Papa Roach, could distract her. As the tracks shuffled and repeated themselves, Zooey’s mind kept going back to the bathroom. To what had happened.
If it wasn’t for the crowd that formed in front of the boarding gate, Zooey wouldn’t have realized that it was time to get on the plane. In an automatic reflex she stood and waited for her turn. Before handing her boarding pass though, she instinctively looked behind her. But the crowd had also formed behind her and it was impossible to make out his face. If he even was there.
After she was seated and strangely found an empty spot for her trolley above her, Zooey’s mind was still in the bathroom. Maybe she should have stopped him. Maybe she shouldn’t have left him without saying a word. Maybe she should stopped and talked about it. Maybe she shouldn’t have started talking about their relationship at all.
Maybe she shouldn’t have left him five years ago.