when it’s christmas eve and your grandfather calls to say ” grandma was admitted to the hospital,” you suddenly stop worrying about the barnes & noble gift card you forgot to pick up. instead, you navigate the security line and search for the nearest gin and tonic. all the while, wishing terminal 1 had a smoking lounge. then you see him and realize the power of coincidence is no coincidence at all.
the first time i met R, i was 24 and trying to get a job at his bar. i wore black lace and red lipstick. he fed me rye manhattans. i was smart enough to stop at 2. instead of hiring me, though, he took me to dinner. we ate flounder and drank cherry cobblers. he said things like “military industrial complex” and i thought i’d fallen in love. a month later, i moved into his house.
i’d just left san diego, i was bambi on ice. but i had this man guiding me along, telling me where to get the best burrito and what neighborhoods to avoid. he was so generous, too, letting me stay for free as he traveled to africa. i still think that first month in san francisco- almost 3 years ago- was the best time of my life.
so, it was not surprising when i saw him waiting to board the same flight to san diego. instead, it almost made sense.
he insisted on sitting in the emergency exit row, asking if i was okay saving lives. “not in these shoes,” i answered. we drank screwdrivers and spoke as though 2 years hadn’t passed. he looked tanner, younger even. i kept thinking how awful i must’ve looked. then he’d say something like “this is the best i’ve seen you.”
we landed and took shuttles to rented cars, promising to get drinks over the next week. i sped to the hospital. the streets were empty as i blasted the radio and passed the exits where my homes used to be.
later, after visiting grandma and eating gluten-free pizza at a sports bar, R met me holding a bottle of rye. “merry christmas eve,” he said as he fed me a manhattan.