There I was, standing in a vast terminal in Chicago's O'Hare Airport, waiting for my new girlfriend who was flying in from Seattle. We were about to meet for the first time, and my anticipation was almost childlike. Blissful Torment had declared that SHE was the one, and now it was my turn to meet the Princess who had turned my wife's head.
It was not too long after 9/11, and security could only be described as being a serious pain in the ass. At least the glares of camouflage garbed National Guardsmen armed with assault rifles were gone, replaced by the scowling presence of more subtly uniformed and armed NTSA agents. Flashing my Legislative ID and business card with the State Seal and bold title - Chief of Staff - didn't impress anyone and couldn't get me past their frowns, so I was reduced to waiting for arrivals with everyone else.
It was hard to just stand and wait, that's not my nature. I guess there was a reason I'd been called "Action Man" back in the days when I'd been a community organizer, as I'm not one for sitting (or standing) around with nothing to do. I used to laugh at people who talked about kicking back and relaxing on vacation, I always figured there'd be plenty of time for reclining when I was dead.
My ideal vacation (not to mention vocation) had always been strapping on a backpack and setting out into a wilderness area. Now that was gone, disappeared with an unstable lumbar spine and severe chronic back pain that was preventing me from even being on the road with my employer, who was unceasing himself in his quest for higher and higher offices.
That I'd been forced to trade my backpack and banners for a suit and tie was bad enough, but now I was limited to office work, tied to a fucking desk. Sure, there was a really nice view out the window of my office, that was some consolation, but the actual consolation was sight for a man who had work to do and a public to serve. People who visited me always marveled at my view, I always said, "Sure it is nice, if you've got time to look."
It had been a year since I'd driven to Chicago to pick up Ms Torment's previous girlfriend, and I was being less than subtly reminded that my hiatus in travel had been for a worthwhile reason, my back was literally screaming in pain from the day's drive. Standing and waiting had made it worse.
So, I convinced myself that I needed to walk back down to the video display showing arrivals, to confirm that Serafina's flight was on time. Walking at least provided some relief from the anxiety and boredom of waiting, even if the exercise on the hard cement floor of the terminal wouldn't exactly help work out the pain.
This was my fourth or fight trek across the terminal, I'd lost count. I know I was limping by that time, tendrils of the flames from my lumbar had been burning down my right leg for the past hour. When pressure from inside my lumbar had caused the foot to go numb on the drive to O'Hare, I was thankful for the relief, and for my cruise control too. I knew that precious numb respite was gone for the day, just as I knew that if I didn't keep moving I'd want to just curl up in a corner and whimper like a wounded animal.
As I limped up to the display, I saw that the flight from Seattle had arrived, so I turned around and began to trudge back towards the arrivals gate. The walk back across the terminal felt as though like it was miles in length, although I'm sure it wasn't more than a hundred yards or two at most. My back had gone beyond screaming, and was now laying in my pelvis kicking and throwing it's arms about in a tantrum, or so it felt.
Then I looked up and saw Serafina. She looked just as tired and worn as me, she was limping, and she looked as though she might break into tears at any time. She recognized me at almost the same moment, and the look on her face changed to one of glee.
I don't remember feeling any pain crossing the distance to Serafina, I'm told I broke into a near run for those last few yards. I do know that in my enthusiasm she was swept off her feet, that I bear hugged her with glee. Serafina remembers me swinging her in a circle, her feet off the ground the entire time, I just remember that in my excitement I did swing her like a rag doll, and hugged the breath right out of her too.
Oh her eyes! That's what I remember most about that first look at my Serafina, her blue eyes. They sparkled despite the dull florescent lights overhead, despite her own pain and anxiety. Despite everything else, those eyes still managed to draw me in. When she smiled at me, holding my gaze, I melted.
I quickly learned that Serafina already had long since arrived. Poor Serafina had even retrieved her luggage, all without seeing me waiting. We'd missed each other during one of my cross terminal walks to check arrival listings.
She'd been near despair, as she'd begin to fear that all the dire warnings and predictions she'd heard prior to her trip to visit me might have come true. I assured her that my affection for her was very real, and that I was very much a man of my word.
(to be continued)