He had developed a love for airports, a love for the sound of luggage bags being whisked away into a sorting center down below. He loved watching airplanes sail across the blue sky and eventually disappear into the horizon. He loved watching sweet family reunions at the arrival gate and the teary-eyed goodbyes at departures. And in his heart, an insatiable wanderlust grew to the size of a tidal wave, constantly crashing against the walls of his chest, begging to free.
He sat just outside of arrivals, near the smoking area by the shuttle buses, watching people pass by while music played through his headphones. He watched as international travelers looked at maps and guide books written in their native tongue, trying to navigate this foreign land that he called home. Their faces looked tired, but there was always some sort of sparkle in their eyes, one of wonderment and excitement for finally reaching their destination. One day, he hoped to feel the same as he filled up his passport with stamps, proof of his worldwide adventures. Suddenly, a tap on the shoulder interrupted his daydreams.
He turned around and took out the headphones from his ears. In front of him was a girl who looked at least one inch taller than him, comfortably dressed in a hoodie and skinny jeans, with a black hat that covered half of her face. From what he could see, she had milky white skin, auburn shoulder length hair, and thin peach colored lips. At her side, she held onto the handle of a bright red luggage carrier. She seemed to be from a foreign country, possibly somewhere from Eastern Asia. He was used to this, however, as Japanese and Chinese tourists usually came up to him seeking some sort of help. Although often times, these encounters usually ended with a lot of pointing, broken English, and bowing.
“Hi, I was wondering if you could help me?” she asked in perfect English. “I seem to be a bit lost.”
He stared at her for a few seconds longer than usual, taken aback at her perfect pronunciation.
“I’m sorry, do you not speak English?” she asked, once again putting him in shock.
“O-Oh no, sorry, I don’t. I mean, yeah, I do speak English. So, what do you need help with?” he stuttered, regaining control back over his voice.
“You probably didn’t expect my English to be so good, didn’t you?” she teased, a grin on her face.
“You’re English is great! I mean- that is unless you’re a native English speaker, then it’s quite normal and well-”
“It’s quite alright. I get that a lot honestly,” she said matter-of-fact. “I do need some help though. Would you happen to know where I need to go for the transit? All I see are signs for rent-a-cars and buses that go straight to hotels.”
“Oh yeah, it’s right down over there,” he points behind her. “Although, the transit system isn’t very good here. You might be better catching a taxi to wherever you’re going.”
“I don’t mind. Buses are inexpensive and I like them just fine. Thank you though.”
They exchanged goodbyes and she went off towards the transit. His face grew hot with embarrassment, so he decided that it was best to leave before anything else happened. He quickly gathered his things and made his way to his car in the parking structure. In twenty minutes, he was in his room unpacking his bag. To his surprise, he found a stack of postcards in the small pocket. As he looked through the postcards and carefully placed them above his bed, what appeared to be a folded up letter fell onto his sheets. He was hesitant at first, but curiosity got the better of him and he opened the letter.
I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I remember you. Does that make sense? Anyways, I’m not a stranger, I promise. The first time that we met was in the second grade. Back then, I believed that boys had cooties, so we didn’t become the greatest of friends throughout the school year, nor could we try to afterwards. I needed to move to Taipei with my family by the beginning of third grade, so it was easier for me to be alone most times. But I never forgot what you did in the end. It was after school on the very last day. We were one of the only kids that still needed to be picked up. I was standing against the wall, sporting a dreadful bowl cut and pink backpack. We had never spoken to each other before this, but out of nowhere, you gave me a chocolate bar and a peck on the lips, telling me that you’ll never forget me. How could you take away my innocence and give me cooties with such ease! Just like that, too? But of course, I forgave you and that memory stuck with me until this day.
Then five years ago, I got the opportunity to come back to America to attend college. It was surreal. Coming back and seeing everything change, but feeling that I was finally home. Then, as I’m exiting through the doors of the arrival gate, I see you. I’m not sure how I recognized you after all those years, but I guess your first love never really leaves your heart. I couldn’t believe it at first, but it was really you. So I did the most logical thing. I sat in silence right behind you, sneaking glances while pretending to look at my phone. Although I was a bit disappointed that you didn’t recognize me, I was just glad to have seen you once more. As I was about to leave, resigned to the fact that I may never see you again, I looked down at the planner in your hands and saw that you jotted down the days that you’d visit the airport. And since then, I’ve sporadically gone to see you, day after day.
Of course, I didn’t go every day. I didn’t want to be labeled as a stalker. But I saw you at least once a week. And that was enough. You were always writing away in your notebook, taking photos of travelers, and interviewing them for your blog. I couldn’t bring myself to bother you while you were working so passionately. I couldn’t bring myself to remind you of the promise you made to a little girl in the second grade. Don’t get me wrong, I still dated other guys in college. During those relationships, I didn’t see you for months. They were each great and memorable. But I kept longing for you. I kept wanting to see where our plane would travel to, if we both allowed it take flight. So, I hope this heartfelt confession doesn’t scare you away, because it’s just that. A confession. And confessions are scary. Scarier than riding on a plane during turbulence. I hope this letter finds you well and I hope to see you at the airport once again.
P.S. Here’s my number if you decide that waiting until tomorrow would be too long.”
He read through the letter at least five more times before putting it down and dialing her number into his phone. It only rang once before she picked up.