Some Things Are Meant to BebyHLD©
A collective groan went up as soon as the monitors started flashing.
"May I have your attention please," the voice over the PA said. Although she sounded cheery, everyone could hear the underlying dismay. As if she knew that she and every other ticket agent was about to be swamped with complaints, even though there was nothing anyone could do about it. "Due to the inclement weather, all further incoming and outbound flights have been cancelled. The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded all planes not in the air and diverted all incoming flights to other airports. We apologise for the inconvenience. Please check with your airline to make alternate travel arrangements."
I had been watching The Weather Channel all evening and had been getting updates via cell phone. Although I was hoping for a miracle, my flight had already been delayed twice, so the cancellation was no surprise. I resigned myself to this immediate fate. I called my folks and told them it would be at least another day before I could get home.
On a long shot, I checked with the hotel in the airport and found that all the rooms were booked. I closed my phone and sat down in one of the row seats, knowing that it was probably going to double as my bed for the night. There was really no sense in checking with the ticket agents; right about now, they didn't know what their schedule was going to be for tomorrow, so there was no point in trying to get a seat on a plane that was probably going to be grounded anyway.
I put my earbuds in and turned on my iPod. I hummed along with the tune. It was 1989, my thoughts were short my hair was long . . .
After a moment, someone's shadow fell over me. Absently, I looked up and dialed down the volume.
. . . She was 17 and she was far from in between . . .
"Excuse me, is this seat taken?" a pretty Asian woman asked.
"It is now," I smiled and did what I could to make room for her.
She plopped down next to me with an exasperated sigh. The first thing that struck me about her was how tired she looked. Like she had been running and running and running all day without a break. I took a second to surreptitiously look her over as she rubbed her temples and took a deep breath or two.
Her hair was pulled back into a pony tail. She was dressed stylishly and appeared to be on a business trip. After a second of trying to will the tension away, she stowed her carry-on bag under her seat. She saw me looking at her; I smiled sheepishly.
"Long day?" I asked conversationally.
"If you only knew the half of it," she replied wearily.
Our eyes met. It took us both a second, but the flash of recognition hit us both at the same time. I popped the earbuds out.
"Kevin?" she said tentatively. "Kevin Westcott?"
Unconsciously, my face broke into a wide smile.
"Melanie Nakamura!" I said warmly.
"Oh, my god!" she reached out and gave me a tentative—but friendly—hug. "What are the odds?"
I've always considered myself a child of the 80s, even though we graduated in '91. It's funny how we think of our formative years, isn't it?
When I look back now, I wonder how on earth I ever could have thought my hair and clothes were cool. It was the time of jelly shoes and parachute pants. Michael Jackson was still black, hip hop was called "rap" and every girl I went to school with had a crush on some combination of 1) Kirk Cameron, 2) Nick Rhodes, and 3) Michael J. Fox. Hair bands were the rage and Flavor Flav was part of something that actually had something to say; he wasn't the pathetic caricature/attention whore he is now. And everybody knew how to Wang Chung tonight.
Back then, I was one of the first straight boys in my high school to have a pierced ear. I was unashamed to blare "Ice Ice Baby" through the speakers of my dad's Chevy Celebrity station wagon and I thought Guns N'Roses was the greatest band to ever walk the face of the earth (that's the Axl/Slash/Duff/Izzy/Steven lineup, not the pretenders touring under the name now). I played snare drum in the marching band, was on the yearbook staff and carried the stigma of being in the "gifted classes".
Of course, Melanie did, too. But she was so much cooler than I was. Maybe it was because in our high school, she was one of the handful of Asian kids. We were bused across town as part of court-ordered desegregation, and most of us saw race in terms of black and white. Melanie was the classic stereotypical Asian kid. Overachiever. Thin. Karate black belt. Genetically good at math. Exotically pretty. Uncharacteristically strong for her size.
Her parents were both college professors. For the most part, they were very traditional and raised their kids as such. The one exception was giving Melanie and her brother American names, ostensibly to help them fit in. She graduated second in our class behind Ajay Patel, and I always believed she felt that she should have been first. She had good grades because her parents simply expected it. She was self-motivated, fiercely competitive and never did anything in a half-assed way.
What I always appreciated about Melanie was even though she was smarter than just about everyone in the school, she never flaunted it. She didn't gloat or look down on people. Our high school had all of the usual cliques: the jocks, the losers, the motorheads, the rednecks, the gangsta wannabes, the white-kids-who-wanted-to-be-black, the band geeks, the cheerleaders, the oreos, the dorks, the "alternative" kids (before they were known as "goths"), the skaters, the pretty people, the kung-fu mafia, the stoners, and so on.
Melanie usually ran with the "popular" kids, but wasn't above speaking to us AP nerds and founding members of the Computer Club; she wasn't one of the "mean girls" (back in the day, we called them "Heathers"; go rent the movie). She seemed to move easily through the cliques, never really belonging to just one and was always friendly to everyone who didn't try to cop a quick feel or make fun of her almond-shaped eyes. I don't think she ever really noticed me as anything more than a "friend", but I'd like to think that when she and I were paired up in a group project, she didn't have to do all the work.
After our prom, we ended up at the same party. There was some drinking involved and we were both pretty tipsy.
I don't know how it happened, but we soon ended up in an empty bedroom. Our teenage hormones took over and I couldn't believe my luck!
Melanie Nakamura was making out with me! And not only that, she was frisky when she was drunk!
Let me state right now that I'm a breast guy. I love tits. Juggs. Melons. Tanks. Ta-ta's. Hooters. Whatever your euphemism of choice is, if it's on a girl's chest and has a nipple on the end, I love it. Big, small, pointy, round, heavy . . . I don't care.
In your mind, picture the perfect set of breasts. Who they're attached to probably has something to do with your age. For some, they probably belong to Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield. For others, maybe Selma Hayek or Jessica Alba. For me, my first loves were Erin Grey (aka Colonel Wilma Deering) and Lynda Carter.
But then Melanie Nakamura hit puberty.
Her breasts were never big, but size isn't everything. Melanie's tits were always perky and firm. Maybe it was the way she wore her clothes. She didn't hide behind baggy shirts, but nor were her tops too tight. They were fitted in a way that highlighted her assets but left just enough to the imagination to still be enticing. She was the object of much of my "special time" from when I was twelve until . . . well, until we met again in that airport, almost eighteen years after prom.
Neither of us dated much. Me because I was too shy around girls, and her because her parents thought she should focus on school, not boys.
In any event, we were pawing like frisky kitties and were soon undressing one another. After six years of lust, I finally got my chance to play with her tits.
I don't think I came out from between them until she told me that she wanted me to actually fuck her.
After her words finally sunk in, I scrambled around awkwardly looking for the condoms I had stashed in the jacket of my tuxedo. If your first time was anything like mine, I'm surprised anyone ever has sex twice. We were both eighteen and it was the blind leading the blind.
She didn't know what to do and neither did I. Remember, this was before internet porn was widely available as an "educational" tool. (Author's Note: Whether what happens in porn is reflective of how people actually have sex is another topic all together, but at least the general mechanics are there for you to see). All we had were a few softcore nudie magazines and whatever movie was on "Skinemax" After Dark. We didn't know what to do or how everything was supposed to fit together. I'm sure it was uncomfortable and awkward for her. It certainly was for me.
All I knew was that Melanie Nakamura, the one girl who was out of reach for everyone at school was giving her virginity to me. Me, Kevin Westcott: A gawky, clumsy, nerdy white kid who knew more about Star Trek than football, drove his dad's piece of crap station wagon to prom and wouldn't be able to land a single punch in a fight with one of the school's jocks. Me!
I only lasted a few seconds before my eighteen year-old cock blew its wad. I was ashamed, but she didn't rub it in. She was even nice enough to tell me how big I was and that I made her feel good. The second time was about the same.
Hey, at least I wasn't a virgin anymore!
Well, that's not actually how our prom night turned out. But in my fertile (and horny) imagination, that's how it would have gone.
As it was, we saw each other at prom, but she was there with her date. Me with mine. We went to separate after-prom parties. My date had to be home by 2 AM, plus we went more as friends than anything else, so there was no hanky-panky for me.
Graduation was two weeks after that and I didn't see Melanie Nakamura again until our chance meeting in a snowbound airport a lifetime later.
"What on earth are you doing here?" I asked, settling back into my seat.
"I'm on my way home," she replied. "I was out in San Francisco and hoping to beat the weather back."
"What's going on out in California?"
"I'm trying to close a deal," she said. "What about you? What are you doing here?"
"I'm going to visit the folks for a long weekend," I said.
"Where are you living now?" Melanie asked.
"Outside of Richmond. I just bought a house." It was good to catch up with an old friend. It brought a bright spot to an otherwise dreary night. The other people in the airport were divided into two distinct camps. One group had resigned themselves to the fact that they wouldn't be going anywhere. The other was pissed off and thought that by shouting that they could somehow will away the freak blizzard that was swamping a regional air transportation hub. "Want to go get a drink?"
Melanie sighed, then smiled wearily. "Sure."
We gathered our things and went to one of the bars in the airport, ordered a couple of appetizers and began talking. After high school, she went to Duke, completed her degree in finance in three years, then picked up her MBA. Melanie was a commercial lender and had somehow survived all the bank mergers and layoffs that came about in the wake of the sub-prime mess. Melanie's father's health was failing and she moved home to help care for him; luckily she had a job where she could telecommute and fly to the places that needed her.
"What have you been up to since graduation?" she asked, downing the rest of her margarita in one gulp.
"I went to Guilford College and dual-majored in history and computer science," I took a bite of almost-cold cheesestick. "Then I got my master's and Ph.D. in history from Emory. I teach at a community college now."
"Not at a university?"
"Nah," I replied. "I hate the 'publish or perish' mentality of the big schools. I like to teach and work with people, not feel like I have to put out a paper every four months or lose my job."
Our conversation turned to family. She was divorced with two kids who split time between her and her ex-husband. I was single; no kids, no pets. The night wore on and the time seemed to fly by.
At about eleven, the lights inside the terminal dimmed. Most everyone had settled down; the initial furor was gone. Everyone who remained accepted that no planes were coming or going until at least the next afternoon. The rest had left to try and find an alternate way home or a hotel to stay in. Melanie and I both decided that if the hotel that was attached to the airport was booked up, we weren't going to brave the storm and go somewhere else for the night.
The bar closed at midnight and we went back to our boarding gate to try and find a spot to sleep.
I cherished the few hours with my beautiful friend. In some ways, it seemed as if we picked up right where we left off, seventeen and a half years ago. In other ways, it was like we were meeting for the first time.
The years had been kind to her. I can't say as much for myself. She was still petite and drop-dead gorgeous. However, there were a few grey hairs and lines on her face that hadn't been there before. I guess two kids, an ex-husband and a career in banking will age people. Still, I couldn't think of one other person I'd rather be stuck in an airport with than Melanie Nakamura.
All of the seats were taken, mostly by couples or families. We found a corner near the window that was conveniently next to a power outlet. We plugged in our cell phones and iPods to charge then leaned back against the wall.
"Do you remember Grad Night?" I asked softly.
We both smiled at the pleasant memory. Grad Night is something Disney World does for all of the high schools in Florida. Basically, they open the Magic Kingdom from 11 PM to 7 AM to graduating seniors. All the rides and attractions are open and they have popular music acts on stages throughout the park. For our year, the big names were En Vogue and C&C Music Factory. Mel and I crossed paths a couple of times during the night, but for me, the highlight was the ride home.
"You mean when Jeff Bunting fell asleep with his face against the glass on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?" Melanie giggled.
"Something like that," I said.
"Or the part where your shoulder was my pillow on the bus?" After a full day of school, a bus ride to Orlando then eight hours of Disney fun, we were both bushed. We somehow ended up sharing a seat on the bus ride home and having Melanie sleeping with her head on my shoulder was the closest to Heaven I had ever been.
I smiled sheepishly.
Neither of us said anything else that night. She pulled her jacket around her shoulders. I leaned back into the corner, my head against the wall. Melanie snuggled up in the crook of my arm and soon we were both asleep.
The lights came on promptly at 7:00 the next morning. Another foot of snow had fallen overnight. Melanie and a thousand of our closest friends stirred as the airport came to life. The status boards were all flashing "cancelled" for every flight.
We stretched and took turns going to the restrooms. There was a line in the women's room and she took a little longer than me.
"Do you want the good news or the bad news?" I asked as she came out. Even though we had spent the night basically sitting up, she still looked beautiful. At least to me.
"Can't I get a cup of coffee first?"
"There's a line for that, too."
Melanie rolled her pretty brown eyes. "Give me the bad news first."
"The earliest we're gonna get out of here is tomorrow." I picked up my laptop bag and backpack. She pulled on the handle of her carry-on suitcase and rolled it along as we headed back to the main part of the concourse.
"Dammit!" she kindly refrained from using some of the many choice words I knew she wanted to blurt out. From what I remembered about Melanie, despite her appearance as a petite, well-mannered young woman, her favourite curse word was twelve letters long, started with M and ended in R. "I thought it was supposed to clear up today."
"It is supposed to clear up later today, but that's not the problem," I pointed to the TV that was showing a radar map on The Weather Channel. "See all that white? From Bismark to Pittsburgh? That's the problem. The plane sitting outside our gate isn't ours. That one's going to San Diego. Our plane is stuck in Minneapolis and won't get in until late tonight at the earliest."
She let out another exasperated sigh. "What's the good news?"
"I think I scored us a hotel room." I smiled.
"How'd you manage that?" she asked.
"Connections," I replied cryptically. "It won't be ready until about noon, but I've got enough Marriott points to get bumped to the top of the list for the hotel here."
"I don't suppose you want to try and drive home?" Melanie asked, her voice hopeful.
"Not really," I frowned. "They're not used to getting so much snow this far south. It's six hours home under sunny conditions. Never mind this mess. I'd rather take my chances on a plane than on a road full of morons who only see snow once every five years. And there's no telling if they have the plows and salt trucks necessary to clear the roads."
"I suppose you're right," she sounded dejected.
"Let's go get something to eat," I suggested, trying to change the subject.
We made our way to the food court. There were only a couple of places open for breakfast; we picked the one that served cafeteria-style.
Filling our trays, we went to check out. She reached for her billfold, but I got my debit card out first.
"I'd also like to pay for the people behind us, too," I said stepping up to the register. Melanie, the cashier and the family of five that was next in line stared at me in disbelief. I pretended that nothing was out of the ordinary.
"Thank you," the father said as everyone carted their breakfast away. I smiled and wished them happy travels to wherever it was they were going.
Melanie and I went to sit down at a table.
"Do you always do stuff like that?" she asked.
"Like buy meals for complete strangers."
"I've been both fortunate and lucky in my lifetime. Sometimes, I've been helped out by folks I didn't know and given opportunities clear out of the blue," I told her. "I just try to pay it forward when I can."
"It seems that someone could take advantage of you."
"I guess." I only shrugged. "Usually, I don't tell anyone in advance. Like that family; they looked tired and hungry. Based on the way they're dressed and the stuff they're carrying, I'd guess they're on their way home from Disney World and probably didn't build another day's worth of meals into their budget. I do well enough and can afford an extra forty bucks to make someone's day. Besides, I never know when I'm going to need some karma."
"Karma, you know, 'what goes around, comes around'," I smiled. "Don't you watch My Name is Earl?"
"I don't watch much television," she said and I couldn't tell if her deadpan expression was serious or not.
"You should watch more. Slow down some and enjoy life a little," I said, trying not to sound like I was lecturing her.
Melanie absently turned to her breakfast. She had a cinnamon roll; I had a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. Melanie got her Starbucks fix; I settled for bottled water. Neither of us said much more as we ate. I could see the gears turning in her head. It looked to me like she was trying to fix something in her head she had no control over.
After our quick bite, we made our way to the ticket counter and tried to get seats on the next plane home. We tentatively secured ourselves a place on the first flight out, but at the earliest we weren't going to be leaving until the next morning.