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Sometimes, I think, we meet people for a reason.
I came to this conclusion on a flight from New Orleans to Denver post a boozy Gal-entine’s Day weekend with my squad.
Back in New Orleans, I had stood a bit bleary-eyed in a Southwest Airlines’ boarding line, holding B-32 and watching with some amusement at the rather cute stranger in front of me holding B-31. He was hesitant to approach the gate agent, seemingly worried that he would disrupt the organized chaos that makes up the Southwest boarding process.
He glanced over his shoulder and I nodded to reassure him that the rest of B-Group was following. We were both beeped through to the jetway, and I commenced the detachment routine that begins the moment I get on an airplane. Airplane time is quiet time, you see. No cell phones or email or Instagram. Only a guilty-pleasure book and a mini-bottle of wine.
This flight was one of those Southwest flights that briefly touch down at an airport to pick people up, without many passengers actually getting off the plane. Meaning, there was a plane full of people impatiently awaiting us newcomers, having already moved into the best seats.
So, the cute stranger pointed to a middle seat and gracefully squeezed his athletic build past his soon-to-be aisle seatmate, a member of the collegiate golf team that boarded with us. Meanwhile, I eyed a middle seat a few rows back between two of her teammates. That’s when, to my surprise, cute stranger’s seatmate offered her aisle seat to me, assuming that my boarding partner was my actual partner.
I thought about protesting but she had bounded back to her teammates before I could say anything, and, well, I did mention cute stranger was cute, right? I took the seat.
Cute stranger didn’t notice this exchange until he turned to me, expecting to find a college-aged golfer.
“Oh,” he said with some surprise. “I was going to ask you how the tournament went, but you aren’t on the team are you?”
I smiled, revealing, I’m sure, the little laugh lines I’m earning around my mouth. It’s been more than 15 years since I’ve seen a college classroom.
“Nope,” I replied. “The only time when it’s safe for me to hold a golf club is when there’s a driving range and a few tallboys.”
This got an outright laugh out of Window-Seat guy, but Middle-Seat guy frowned, revealing his own subtle lines.
I will never know why he frowned. At the time, I thought it was because he was disappointed not to have the young golfer beside him. Now, however, I suspect it’s because he felt what I felt: we had chemistry.
You know the kind, the kind you only stumble on once in a while. The chemistry that leaves you wondering about the stranger who passed by you on the sidewalk and, for reasons unknown, made your stomach flip. The kind where it only takes an encouraging look from the stranger behind you in the boarding line to just know. We had that kind of chemistry.
And Middle Seat guy has a girlfriend.
To his credit, Middle Seat guy waited just the perfect amount of time to tell me this. He didn’t let it linger, unasked, through our two-hour-plus, non-stop conversation over the clouds. He also didn’t blurt out “I have a girlfriend” as I’ve witnessed many a far-less attractive man do — as though by virtue of being a female without a wedding ring I may feel compelled to jump him in the middle of a flight.
No, Middle-Seat guy seamlessly worked his live-in girlfriend into the conversation and, when he did, I couldn’t help but inwardly sigh and wonder to myself that self-defeating question that single people often ponder:
Are all the good ones taken?
I was quickly brought back from my moment of self-pity when I actually listened to what Middle Seat guy was saying. He had mentioned his girlfriend’s late husband who died of cancer. He went further, describing the late husband as the love of his current girlfriend’s life.
That’s an intriguing conversation to join, even if I hadn’t recently lost my own fiancé to cancer.
That conversation on a flight from New Orleans to Denver covered life, love, and death. It covered what it’s like to date someone who has lost the love of her life (“she can be very bitter”), and what one should say to someone who is grieving the loss of a partner (“ask about him.”)
It even covered love language as Middle Seat guy explained that his partner’s love language is affirmation while his own love language is touch, allowing himself to ever-so-briefly touch my hand in a thrilling example of touch.
At the end of our flight, we deplaned and shook hands.
As I watched him walk away, I decided that it’s not that the good ones are taken. It’s that, sometimes, the good ones are there to remind us that there are still good ones out there.
About the Author
Hi! I’m Jen!
I’m a freelance writer and travel blogger who quit my nine-to-five after my fiancé, Jeff, died of cancer at the age of 40. When he died, I realized that life is just too short to delay our dreams. Since my dream was to travel and write, I now travel and write full-time. Today I wear hiking boots instead of heels and collect experiences instead of things.