Sunday August 5, 2007: The plane banked hard as it took its slot inside a gaggle of interloping tin birds looking to scavenge solid ground for a spell. My window seat provided me a dashboard view of a town whose skyline was a soothing weep of mayhem and mystery, built on hard promises, like a dice game that never gets finished.
Chicago is a stylized ritual of muck and mortar neighborhoods wrestling the waist of high spire glass totems whose fire spills out genius dreamers hopped up on caffeine and anti-depressants. From the sky, none of that matters because it’s a seductive postcard whose come hither purrs love songs from a time so lost to present day, you wouldn’t even bother pasting it to a milk carton.
It had been more than a decade since I’d been to Chi town, and lots had changed. Harry Caray had gone to that big ballpark in the sky and Michael Jordan had retired for good. On the positive side of the ledger, the White Sox had broken a billy goat curse which allowed Shoeless Joe to finally rest in peace. And a Senator named Barack was making big noise on the national level, threatening to make Chicago politics something much more relevant than a punchline reserved for happy hour.
The truth is, the nostalgia didn’t mean a thing to me. I would have been plenty fine meeting her at an Applebee’s in Fargo, North Dakota. Because from the get, it really felt like the moon was throwing us a ladder and the stars were giving us a chance and Al Green was cleaning his soulful pipes for us as if we were close personal friends. And when nothing else matters the way nothing else was mattering to me right then? Well . . I knew I was fucked.
Yes, I should have been a touch spooked by her Shakespearean tragedy of a family history, but I wasn’t cutting or running. It was as if I was provoking the damnedest parts of me into turning another page of this mystery novel called Her. Because she was my favorite Elvis Costello song without even trying.
I stepped off the plane and began reacquainting myself with O’Hare, which always reminded me of a movie set, replete with a full-throated cast of characters bustling around as if there were medals in the offing. I made my way upstairs and then out into the street where I began looking for my ride. I scanned left to right and back again. Nothing. And then a thought rushed up on me before I could stop it. What if she had second thoughts about this meeting?
And then I turned to find her standing by the side of her car looking right at me. She was double take beautiful, with crazy blonde hair that rained down her shoulders. And I was going to be the guy every other guy would envy as soon as I swooped her up.
When I turned and began walking in her direction, she loosed a shy girl smile in my direction as her eyes turned away from mine before they could give too much away. I walked up to her and lifted her into an embrace to make it real. Her response let me know what the rest of our afternoon was going to look like.
I had made reservations at a DoubleTree near her place. As far as her kids were concerned, she had decided against introductions on my initial trip out to see her. We had agreed that it was important to see what our dynamic was going to feel like once we were in the same place at the same time.
It didn’t take long to figure us out, though. As we knocked back a couple of lagers, we talked and laughed and finished each other’s sentences as if we’d been doing it for a lifetime. It felt so much more relevant than a simple connection to another individual. And while I had never really believed in soul mates, she was changing my mind with every spell binding turn.
We went for a walk afterwards, to spin away any of the residual anxiety we might have been holding onto. And that’s when I brought her into me for our first real kiss; a kiss that crushed time into a velvety plush. It wasn’t simply a kiss. No. From that moment on, we would refer to the moment when clarity knocked on our door as The Kiss.
It was the end of the world as we knew it.