I had a reservation on a flight for Tegucigalpa, but a silly but painful accident playing kickball the night before forced me to defer the trip. The first thing I see, while taking my seat on the plane the following Wednesday, is that you have the seat right in front of me.
I hadn’t thought of you in a while. No, that’s a lie. I had tried not to think of you. It hadn’t always worked. The finality of the end was far too painful not to want to forget. Yet you were embedded somewhere far too deep to forget easily.
You stood up and smiled. You looked about the same, though the reading glasses you now affected gave you a slightly different appearance. Your coiffed hair and formal dress told me that you were traveling for work.
Before I could barely say a word, you spoke to the flight attendant and had your seat changed, next to mine. In a second, the insinuating aroma of Calandre took me several years back.
I was new to Washington and, back from my downtown office, I had stopped for dinner in a Moroccan restaurant and, not finding a table, seated myself at the bar.
The woman sipping a dry martini at the next stool politely moved her stool to make space for me. When she said Hello, a conversation started.
I ordered a martini too but specified a Golf Martini. You asked what it was, and I explained that I preferred a martini with bitters. You threw your head back and laughed when I added that Mencken had called the martini the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.
When I finished my martini, you asked if I cared for another sonnet and ordered Golf Martinis for us both.
We had dinner together and I was amazed how good the food was. I had cautiously ordered some Couscous, but you had ordered Pastilla, and we shared our portions. It was still early evening and you invited me to your apartment.
You found you had some leftover pie and we shared a few pieces with coffee. We continued talking for a long time. When I finally returned home, I knew it was quite late because the night guard’s brows went sky-high as I turned the key.
We saw a lot of each other. We even went out of town on long drives to inns she fancied in small towns nearby. Occasionally I drove, but she did the bulk of the driving. She seemed to like it and I liked to sit back and watch her drive and listen to music. We both liked the winding roads in the nearby mountains; the scenes were ever-changing and breathtaking.
The best memory I have is of the time we rented a cottage on the Potomac and spent three ideal days together. In the quiet of that lovely cottage we came the closest together. We also, sadly, began the process of moving away from each other. There was no reason. Nor was there a way to slow or stop the steady breach we felt overtaking us. We gingerly talked about it. We didn’t know how to prevent the pain that waited for us both. We just had to recognize it and accept it as an irresistible faultline. Finally, came the bleak day when we hesitated even to call each other.
All this went through my mind as we chatted amiably and ate the modest dinner the airlines served. It seemed like the old times, except that it wasn’t. I have no idea why relationships end, but, when they do, it is futile to try and recapture the lost thread. We knew; we did not try. We made the best use of the time we had together.
The flight landed on time. A car had come for her from Marriott where she was staying. She asked where I was booked, and I said I had a reservation at Clarion. I took a taxi.
I hadn’t spoken the truth when I said I was booked at Clarion. My reservation was also at Marriott.
I checked the conference website and came down to the banquet hall at the right hour. The hall was packed, and I took a seat unobtrusively in the last row.
I left as quietly as I had come. That was my last view of her.