I’m on the plane back to Richmond from Minneapolis. I’m happy for a window seat to slump into because the man next to me is a real talker. Right away, he starts chatting up the woman in the aisle. They go into stories about their families and where they will spend the Thanksgiving holiday. Amid their chatter, I drift off into a light sleep, thinking about the past two days of my life.
I flew to Minneapolis to spend time with a man I hadn’t seen in three years. The day before I left, my mom called to tease me.
“What if he looks like a troll now?” she asks, laughing.
(I don’t know about that woman sometimes.)
He meets me at the airport. He looks the same, yet not the same. We fall into light banter, the subtle flirting of former lovers.
That night, we check out the famous Mall of America, an incredibly massive display of stores and restaurants, many I’ve never even heard of. We have dinner at Twin City Grill – walleye and vodka for me, BBQ chicken and tea for him. I try cheese curds for the first time. They sound kind of gross but it turns out they’re these delicious little knobs of white cheese deep-fried in oil. The food is very good; the service is impeccable. People in Minnesota all just seem so…nice.
We laugh. I touch his back. This is easy, maybe.
After dinner, we head to the movies to see Flight. I probably cried the entire last 20 minutes of the film. Seeing Denzel play the lead role as an alcoholic made me reflect on the question: What do we try the hardest to hide?
The next day, we explore Walker Art Center. I fall in love with the Sculpture Garden, the leaves crackling underneath our feet as we walk and talk. There’s a local band playing downtown, so we have dinner and live music to end the day. The bar is 150 years old, but the Root City Band makes it sound brand new.
Our time together feels both familiar and strange. I have no idea what I’m doing here except enjoying the good company of a good man.
Maybe, that’s all there is.
I wake up just as the plane begins to descend on the Richmond International Airport. The sun is setting now, a red blaze of light disappearing quickly beneath the horizon. The man next to me is talking about how his parents were married for 60 years and then passed away a year apart from each other.
My ears perk up. It seems like I probably missed a great conversation while I was off daydreaming. The man has cancer now and says he doesn’t know how much longer he will live himself.
“I live every day like it’s an extra day,” he says.
There’s no tinge of sadness in his voice whatsoever. Just a matter-of-fact realization that tomorrow is not promised to any of us.
Every day is an extra day.
I get out my journal so I can finish scribbling down every detail of my trip. I want to remember those two extra days of my life I spent in Minneapolis with a sweet chocolate man. I don’t want to forget the way he looked at me across the high-top bar table last night, the smooth sounds of saxophone and guitar filling the air.
I want to record the sound of his voice right before he kissed me – the soft way he whispered, “You look pretty tonight.”