05/28/2013 08:43 am ET Updated Jul 27, 2013

The Single Most Romantic Thing


Apparently the honey roasted peanuts from the plane had made her fingers just sticky enough to jam the keys on her Blackberry. As she struggled with attempting to clean off the keys and get the damn thing to work, she searched her handbag for a tissue to spit on and wipe them off. Disgusting yes, but necessary nonetheless. The check in line at the hotel wrapped around the lobby, crowded with eager convention attendees ready for a couple of days of overindulging and chucking their marriage vows, on someone else's tab. All she wanted to do was get to her room, kick off her heels, answer a few emails and hope the minibar had a decent bottle ofChardonnay. As her phone became unglued, it slipped from her hand and fell to the floor. She bent down to retrieve it and her handbag slipped off her shoulder, emptying a selection of embarrassing contents onto the floor. Cursing under her breath as she knelt on the carpet to gather her belongings, she was mortified that the man behind her in line felt the need to be an intrusive asshole and help her. Cranky and tired, she thought the bastard just wanted to get a better look at what was written on the label of the prescription bottle that lay among the tampons and lipstick. Feeling at once annoyed, amused and grateful, she mumbled thank you and looked up to offer a semblance of a smile. A wave of familiarity washed over her and her first thought was "I think I know this guy."

* * *

"Thirty years? It can't be that long!"

"Do the math. Oh wait, I forgot. You were never good with math," he chided.

Really? Who remembers that kind of stuff? They sat in the lounge opposite each other on high bar stools. He, with a vodka tonic and she gulping down a glass of wine to calm her nerves. Old boyfriends had that effect on her. A quick run to the cruelly lit ladies room reflected back a 51 year old face that had been through two airports and six and a half hours of air travel. Her hair was another story completely. She repaired what she could and was thankful the lighting in the bar was dim. She studied him as she made her way back to the table. He looked good. Older, grayer, a little heavier. But good. And those blue eyes, a little sadder, but they still had the same effect on her.

* * *

He reached across the table and put his hand on her wrist.

Wow, don't do that.

"I've been looking for you in airports for thirty years."

Bam! Hands down the single most romantic thing anyone has ever said to her. But that was definitely a gold band on his left hand.

"Still work for the airlines?" she asked.

"Yes, but I'm based in Chicago now." He handed her his business card and she was impressed with his title. VP of something, but no way was she putting on her reading glasses. "Want to hear my fantasy?"

Dangerous territory after a drink on an empty stomach, but sure. Let it rip.

"I would be walking through the terminal and see you sitting waiting to board your flight. I would write a note and give it to the gate attendant and ask her to give it to you. I would stand back and watch your reaction as you read the note. If you smiled and looked up, I would approach you. If you ripped it up and frowned, I'd have to find a new fantasy."

What the hell did the note say. He smiled.

"Did you miss the last ferry to Fire Island?"

Memories of the night they pulled up to the dock as the last boat left on a Friday night came flooding back to her. They ended up eating lobster and drinking beer at some dive by the bay and then finding a cheap motel room. She felt her cheeks flush as she remembered what it felt like to be 23 and in love. She remembered putting on sunglasses the next morning as they left the motel, hoping to avoid anyone from the neighboring rooms that had been kept awake by the sounds coming through the paper thin walls. She hadn't thought about that night in 30 years. He obviously hadn't forgotten it.

* * *

The dog was going crazy and barking like a lunatic, signalling the daily arrival of the brown truck. With one hand she grabbed her collar and opened the door to sign for the package. The driver looked harried and impatient. He was probably stressed from the rush of Valentine's Day deliveries. She opened the plain brown box with a kitchen steak knife. No tissue paper, no card, no return address. Inside it was filled with Reese's peanut butter cups...her favorite.