The airport was a shit show. His flight landed a few hours ago… He had gotten himself on one of the last planes out of Honduras before the mandatory quarantine started there, and he had spent nearly three hours in a line waiting to get his temperature taken. No temp. So he had that going for him… which is nice.
He was hungry, and the smell of Cinnabon in the air made him think of the old cartoon where Mickey smelled a pie in the window, and the scent enticed him until his feet left the ground in weightless anticipation. He smiled as he thought about that Louis CK bit where Louis demands the OLD Cinnabon, and the worker tries to talk him out of it. Was he allowed to laugh at that comedy anymore? He wasn’t sure. Either way, the decision was made that he DESERVED a Cinnabon… All things considered.
He smelled her before he saw her. She had some sort of fruit-mint gum that made the back of his tongue ache a little. His mouth watered enough that he reminded himself not to drool. Behind the smell of fruit-mint there was something citrusy and floral… A perfume that was an older scent than what he would have expected before he turned around and saw her. Time stood still.
He listened to the sound of a luggage wheel making a click with every turn. Some woman was speaking entirely too loud into her AirPods about something no one in that airport wanted to hear. Somewhere in the distance, a baby made a sound that wasn’t quite a cry, but it wan’t quite NOT a cry either. He forgot about his hunger. He forgot about everything. For a moment, he even forgot about the seemingly endless anxiety that made his chest feel tight and old. He noticed the windows. The sun was shining, it turns out. A man coughed a dry cough nearby, and it snapped him out of his nirvana.
“Fuck it, right? I’m having a Cinnabon.”
Was she speaking to him? He heard himself laugh. And he felt himself start to sweat.
“I’m actually trying to GAIN weight… The doctor says it dangerous to be this physically fit.” This was obviously not the case. He looked up just a bit, hoping she wouldn’t notice his double chin. As he said it, he became aware of the tightness of his own belt. It was buckled on the third hole these days… instead of the FOURTH hole, like it was a few months ago. Maybe he would start running again.
“I figure, what the hell. If I feel like eating a Cinnabon, I’m going to eat a Cinnabon. I’m going to lick every bit of frosting off that thing.” He watched her lips as she said it. She played the words like an instrument. Like a clarinet. Like a clarinet solo in a piece you had never heard before, but someone gave you free tickets to the symphony, so you decided to splurge and buy a second glass of wine. The solo sounded vaguely familiar… Like the memory of a déjà vu… And your eyes teared up as you considered all the practice that went into making something sound that beautiful.
“I probably I shouldn’t. It’s almost swimsuit season.” He had made this joke before, but it felt somewhat spontaneous.
Did she laugh? He wondered if he blacked out.
She was beautiful in an obvious sort of way. When she smiled, he supposed people either melted or they felt threatened. And nervous. He was a nervous puddle. He tried to remember what it was like to have bones. She moved a strand of hair away from her face with a flawless ease that made him think she had been preparing for that movement her whole life. He thought of Belle from Beauty and the Beast. “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere… I want it more than I can tell.” The song bounced around in his brain for a moment. He was suddenly very aware of his own heartbeat. There were words…
“What was that?” he stumbled.
He realized she had said something to him, but he was focusing on trying to figure out if he had ever heard his heart beat in his own ears before. Maybe that one summer during soccer conditioning in high school… When he thought he would literally die if he ran One. More. Sprint. He thought about the smell of sunburn, and the way the sod tasted in his braces when he was so exhausted he fell face-first into the grass. He blinked a couple times. He realized his mouth was open. He closed it.
“I asked if you’d ever been,” she smiled.
Been where? What were they just talking about? Where the hell was he? Had they been talking this whole time? Peru? Paraguay? Which one was it?! It definitely started with a P. It was gone. If you had offered him a million dollars, he couldn’t think of one word that started with the letter P. Wait… PRETZEL!
“Never,” he replied.
“Me neither!” She dismissed the words as if they were an afterthought. There was an understood “Oh, well” mixed with the indifference of a “Who knows?”
“You’re going by yourself?” Oh, shit. Was it creepy to ask? Did he cross a line? Dammit, what had he done? In his head he prayed for a time machine. If she stopped smiling, he had already made plans to kill himself with a lethal amount of Cinnabons. He thought of the headline: “Local man dies in orgy of shame and sugar bread.”
“Why not? I hear it’s beautiful. I figured I might as well check it out… Even if I have to go by myself.” Her smile continued, and his death was postponed.
He instantly loved her… Or at least he thought he did. Maybe he loved the thought of her. Maybe he loved the smell of the fruit-mint in the air, and the way her mouth turned up at the side, like she knew something you didn’t. Maybe he loved how she made him feel… Like he had been asleep, and someone woke him up with a soft hand on his shoulder. Have I been asleep? he asked himself. He considered the fact that it was very likely that he was asleep right now… She took off her jacket and revealed a T-shirt that said, “I’ll see your Jesus, and I’ll raise you science.” It looked homemade. Holy shit. What the hell was going on? The heart beat was back again… I’m definitely asleep, he thought.
“Unless you wanted to come with me.”
What the fuck did she just say? The air had left the room. He pinched the back of his leg. He though again of the weightless mouse, floating toward the pie on the windowsill… Were his feet on the floor? Was he floating toward her lips? Her smile? He closed his mouth again.
“I just landed a little bit ago…”
“So you’re already packed?” Her smile… She had to know, right?
He heard himself say, “Flights ARE cheap right now.” He wished he hadn’t said it… Only because, at that very moment, money was meaningless.
“My name is Faith,” she smiled.
He breathed the words, “I’ll go get my luggage.” There was a Cinnabon in his hands, and he had no idea how it got there…
“Where did you say we were going?”
By Chris Boeskool