At times, there is nothing more beautiful than a snowfall. Normally bare, crackled branches are coated in inches of shimmering gossamer. The ground comes alive as white fluff floats down from plump clouds onto withered grass. The too-quickly-revolving world slows to a pace where you can stop, breathe, and take it all in.
Today is not one of those times. No, no, no. Today, snow is the enemy. Obscuring visibility. Slicking runways. Slowing the world so much everything stops moving.
All day, my flight glowed green on the display screens, staying on time even as snow began to fall. We boarded and tucked our bags into overhead compartments without a sign of delay. But, as we braced for takeoff, the plane didn’t move. The pilot’s voice came over the intercom, speaking with a confidence that sounded like he had never been wrong: The wings needed to be de-iced, and it would only take a few minutes.
It took an hour. As the wheels began to move down the tarmac, I was ready to rush the emergency exit and barrel roll down the inflatable slide. I may as well have. On my journey from Chicago to Los Angeles, I had an 70-minute layover in Denver. Plenty of time, as long as there was no delay. With this hour-long de-icing debacle, my chances of making the connection were zip to zero.
After rebooking, I pay airport prices to indulge in comfort calories, find a bank of chairs along the wall to drop into, and rip the edge of my apple strudel. It’s pretty good, but tinged with the taste of disappointment.
Screw Chicago. Screw planes. Screw anything puts five more hours between me and my palm tree’d vacation.
I look up and three seats to my right, in the same University of Illinois sweatshirt he had since freshman year, is Gavin. I’m so surprised, my coffee almost slips from my hand, but I catch it just below the lid. “Gavin. Hi.”
Last time I saw him, we were tipping back beers and laughing in each other’s faces under the warm yellow glow of an Edison light, the alcohol erasing the boundaries of personal space. So many times I wanted to kiss him, like I had since we met in the dorms at 18, both struggling to adult.
My boyfriends, his girlfriends, or life in general. This time, it was a woman named Genevie he’s started dating in his new home of Minneapolis.
That night, I walked home to my apartment, snowflakes melting on my cheeks to be tears I wouldn’t let myself cry. It was time to let him go.
“What are you doing here?” I ask as he scoots two chairs over so there’s no space between us again.
“I’m on my way to Phoenix to see Claire,” he says of his sister. “What about you?”
“I missed my layover to L.A., so I’m waiting for the next one,” I tell him.
“Is it wrong that I’m glad you did?” he asks, getting a chuckle out of me. “I’ve missed you.”
He leans his elbow on the chair’s arm, and my eyes go to the near-threadbare edges of his sweatshirt, worn from hours of sleep and movie marathons and wanting to stay in comfort. Being with him had left the same feeling.
I may have tried to let him go, kept our texts limited, and the social media checks far from stalking, but I couldn’t deny I missed him. I yearned for him the same way a baby bird does for the sky: wanting to soar, but afraid of the pain the leap could bring.
“Feeling’s mutual,” I say, and he responds with a grin. “How have you been?”
“Good, good,” he nods. He tells me about the work he’s doing with a tech company, and I tell him about doing still doing grunt work at the education journal I’m with. We trade stories on day-to-day antics—lunches going cold on deadlines, losing ourselves in reality TV to ignore how we were sick of our jobs, dead-end dates. There are collegiate memories, too—listening to neighbors fight through thin walls, pulling all-nighters at midterms, bracing ourselves against the wind as we walked home from dinner.
The urge returns to press his lips to mine, wrap myself up in his cozy sweatshirt. But again, we’re those two ships passing in the night. Our flights will take us hundred of miles apart. It’s pointless.
Although it feels like it’s only been 5 minutes, an hour later, his flight is called for boarding.
“Oh, I gotta go.” He scrambles up, swinging the backpack on to his shoulder.
I stand, too, and when I hold my arms open for a hug, he walks right into them, wrapping me up tight. I feel stupid, but the tears burn my eyes. I don’t know when I’ll see him again, when our ships will past once more. “Have a safe flight.”
“You, too.” As he steps back, his fingers catch mine. “Listen, I’m actually going to be in Chicago in two weeks for work. I want to come back there permanently, and I’m going to ask if they’ll transfer me. If they do, would you ever want to go out? Like as more than friends?”
The words catch in my throat, I know what I want to say, but what are the chances he could do it? That fate would let our clocks sync?
Then again, what we’re the chances we’d meet here? What if this was meant to be?”
I may be disappointed if I say yes, but if I say no, it’s definite. “I’d love to.”
He beams, teeth coming his bottom lip as he smiles. “Awesome.”
He kisses my cheek, and as he runs down the terminal, I fall back in my seat, no longer wishing for palm trees, but my Chicago’s magic snow.