Once Upon a Time at 30,000 Feet
The poetry in writing is the illusion it creates.
(© 2017 by the author)
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I’m not a frequent flyer but when I do fly I go first-class, and I always give the stewardess a fresh flower to give to the captain with a verbal thank you for his ability in taking us from point A to point B in comfort and safety. The word gets around about my gift and the crew seems happier than usual. It’s a tough thankless job, the flower is the least I can do to show appreciation.
Several months ago, something unexpected happened which would eventually change my life forever. I was flying from Chicago to West Palm Beach for a few days of peace, quiet, and sun. Winter weather in Chicago can be daunting at times. The question of why I continue to live there has dogged me for years.
American Flight 1071 lifted off at 7:05 AM as scheduled with me tucked into first class seat 5A next to a window. The thrust of the plane as the captain applies power is always exhilarating and then the wobbly sensation as tons of aircraft lift off of the runway and become airborne.
I waited until the cabin crew completed their routines and things began to settle down before I pressed the attendant button. A young, beautiful stewardess, with a name tag identifying her as Chandra, approached with a warm smile.
“Good morning, Chandra. Would you be good enough to give this to the Captain with my compliments for our flight this morning?” I could tell she was somewhat taken aback as she responded.
“Yes, of course. Thank you.” A genuine smile flooded her face as she took the rose and departed for the cockpit.
I released the reclining back of my seat and closed my eyes, hoping the three hours would go quickly if I dozed off. I barely heard the warning announcement of turbulence ahead as I fell asleep. Consciousness returned slowly as the body of the plane shook. My eyes were slightly open when I noticed someone entering from the galley. They walked slowly to where I was sitting, paused a second, then moved on. The glimpse I caught of the uniform told me it wasn’t a passenger or a stewardess and I did not remember seeing a steward on board so I assumed it was either the captain or co-pilot. It seemed odd that he paused. I looked at my watch. It was only 8:15, I closed my eyes and drifted in and out of sleep until I heard the announcement to prepare for landing.
I could see it was a beautiful day in Florida as we touched down. A swim before an early dinner seemed appropriate before ending my first day of vacation. I waited until the other passengers had departed before I made my way to the exit. Chandra, who was greeting the passengers as they exited, grinned when she saw me, “Good-bye, Mr. Benson. Captain Davis was surprised and very pleased to receive your gift.”
“I’m so glad. Thank you, Chandra. Good afternoon.”
“Good-bye, have a pleasant stay.”
The warm humid air of Florida engulfed me as I exited onto the concourse and headed for the main terminal. I was in no hurry, so I decided to stop in at Nick’s Tomato Pie for a slice of their great pizza and a beer before heading to my hotel.
I was chatting with the barista when I had the strangest feeling I was being watched. That feeling you get on the back of your neck is the way it came to my attention. I was about to turn around when I noticed the crazed mirrors on the wall behind the bar. There was, in fact, someone standing just outside the restaurant entrance looking in my direction. He wore the typical blue suit of a flight crew member, a black traveling bag slung over one shoulder and a white hat tucked under his other arm. I turned on my barstool to get a better look. As I did, he moved away. How strange I thought. Probably my imagination working overtime.
I finished eating, drank my beer and left a tip. I’ll be damned, as soon as I stepped into the concourse, there he was, looking in my direction. Then I noticed a rose sticking out of his shoulder bag. I knew immediately who it was and walked through the crowd and stopped in front of him.
“Are you following me?” I grinned.
His face lit up as a beautiful smile overtook his handsome face. “Yes, I guess I am.”
“You’re the Captain of the plane I arrived on.”
“Yes,” he grinned. “I’m curious. Why the rose?”
“Unfortunately, yes. It’s a random act of kindness to folks who are overlooked for their contribution to our everyday life. You pilots fall into that category. Am I right?”
“I suppose you are.” We began walking toward the main terminal. “Where’re you headed?”
“The Hyatt Place.”
“I’m just here for a few days to relax and unwind, then back to the dead of winter.”
“You live in Chicago?”
“Yes, on the north side just off the park.”
“You know the area?”
We arrived at the car rental area. “Can I drop you somewhere?”
“No, that’s okay. I just wanted to thank you for the thoughtful gesture,” he extended his hand.
“My pleasure.” His handshake was warm and firm. “Hey, are you at loose ends?”
“Yeah, I’m just here to get some rest and then heading back.”
“If you have nothing planned for the evening, drop by the Hyatt Place and be my guest for dinner.”
He was surprised at the offer and hesitated. I smiled and raised my eyebrows as I waited for his reply.
“Okay, I’d like that,” he grinned.
“I’m Brad Benson.”
“Yes, I know. Charlie Davis. What time?”
“Get there when you can. I’m going for a swim and then lay around. I’ll let the front desk know where I am.”
“Great, see you then.”
“So long, Captain Davis.”
He smiled as he turned away.
He was a very pleasant looking man, salt, and pepper wiry hair, taller than me, probably six feet or a little more. As the car rental attendant prepared my paperwork, I remembered the warmth and firmness of his handshake. You can tell a lot about a person by their handshake. He looked into my face and eyes, not shy by any means. I suppose he had to be that way in his line of work. Friendly, confident, but there was something else I felt when our hands touched. It was almost a sense of . . . I don’t know, gratitude? I found it confusing. I looked forward to meeting with him. Perhaps a more personal encounter would clear the confusion. I’m sure his history and tales of flying would be interesting. All the beautiful places he’s been to. I imagined how he wined, dined, and slept with the best of them around the globe, unlike my history which verged on the paltry at best. Well, good for him.
I checked into the hotel, unpacked, change my clothes, grabbed a bathrobe and headed for the pool. After splashing around in the water, I got out of the pool and cozied up on a deck lounger under a large umbrella. A soft, warm ocean breeze lulling me to sleep.
I woke with a start to a shadowed figure of someone standing near me. It was a second or two before recognition hit me. “Captain Davis, hi.”
“Yes, of course. Please, make yourself at home.”
“I will, but I’d like to take advantage of your pool if I may.”
“Yes, please do.”
He placed his backpack on the lounger next to mine and slowly removed his shirt and walking shorts. My breath caught at the sight of his athletic body. I had not expected that for a middle-aged man. He smiled at me, then walked quickly toward the pool.
I experienced a pang of jealousy as he dove effortlessly into the water. I never learned to dive and could barely swim. Actually, it was a cross between treading water and paddling.
Charlie’s physique was impressive. I suspected his body fat was close to zero. After swimming two laps, he pulled himself gingerly out of the water and walked slowly toward me with a confident gait. I glanced around poolside and noticed the attention he got from the ladies. I chuckled to myself, eye-candy on the hoof. The water running off of his body sparkled in the afternoon Sun, accentuated his musculature.
I threw a towel at him. “Thanks. That was just what I needed.”
I found myself staring at him as he dried the excess water from his body. Every movement he made exaggerated his musculature. I imagined him a young gladiator rising from a Roman pool and toweling himself before climbing into his chariot and riding off into the sunset.
“I’m glad you invited me. There’s no pool where I’m staying.”
“I’m glad you could make it.”
He settled down on his lounger, took a deep breath and smiled.
“Charlie, you’re so fit. How do you do it?”
He laughed, “I’m a gym rat. I do it to relieve the tension from flying.”
I chuckled, “Obviously, I’m not a gym rat.”
He looked at me and smiled. “You certainly aren’t a 90-pound weakling either. Your legs are in better shape than mine.”
“I walk and run a lot. Go hiking whenever I get a chance.”
“Maybe that’s what I should start doing. Where do you hike? It’s pretty flat territory around Chicago.”
“I go up to Wisconsin, the Dells. When I lived in California it was Yosemite as often as I could manage it.”
“Yosemite? I’ve never been there.”
“The Falls is my favorite. Three hours up and three hours down and very sore knees afterward.”
“Sounds like fun. Did you go with friends?”
“No. Alone. No one I know shares my enthusiasm for climbing mountains.
“Ah,” his response seemed thoughtful as he fell into silence.
“We can go to dinner whenever you like. There’s no hurry.”
He smiled and laid back. It was obvious he was tired as he closed his eyes and began to snore softly almost immediately. I shook my head slightly and smiled as I took advantage of his unconsciousness state and continued to explore his body with partially closed eyes.
How ironic it was to have this beautiful, intelligent specimen of manhood so close to me. I had longed unsuccessfully for a companion, a life partner to fill my lonely life, and here he was. I almost chuckled out loud when I resigned myself to the fact he was probably straight as an arrow. I closed my eyes only to repeatedly open them slightly and steal glimpses of what would be nothing more than another fleeting fantasy for me.
The rhythm of his breathing as he fell into a deep slumber was so becoming, I almost regretted inviting him to dinner. I guessed he was in his mid to late 40’s, clean shaven, broad muscular shoulders above well-defined pecs covered with light graying hair. The definition of his abdominal muscles was slight but definite as they disappeared beneath forest green swim trunks. The wet fabric clung to his body, revealing his ample manhood hidden beneath. Well-defined legs flowed from beneath his trunks, ending in sculptured ankles, well-proportioned feet, and beautiful straight toes. If I had a foot fetish, I would have been in heaven just looking at his feet.
And there he lay, like a giant Popsicle, close enough to lick, and me with no licking privileges. The irony only intensified my loneliness as I imagined things I would never experience with Captain Charlie Davis. I heaved a sigh of despair and turned my head away from him, chastising myself, as I began to doze, for thinking the thoughts I had about this man. I would have to play it straight during our brief encounter so as not to embarrass myself. What a pity.
I came awake with a start. “Hi.”
“It’s 5 o’clock. You requested to be awakened at this hour.”
“Yes, I did. Thank you.”
The desk clerk smiled and retreated to the hotel lobby. I looked over to where my guest was sleeping. He was gone, but his backpack and clothing remained. I glanced around the pool and saw him sitting on the edge of the pool next to a very attractive woman. They appeared to be very happy, talking and laughing together.
My foolish heart sank a little more as I realized I was right about his orientation. He was handsome enough to be a ladies man, and why not. In a way, I was glad for him. He was normal and could live his life openly.
I sat up, swung my legs around and placed my feet on the ground. I was hungry and intended to go to the hotel’s bar and grill for a bit to eat before retiring to my room. I put my robe on and stood for a moment looking at the Captain and his companion. They were so involved with one another, I decided not to intervene. I walked to the entrance of the hotel, paused again and looked back, then entered the lobby of the hotel.
I settled into a booth in the bar and grill and examined the menu.
I recognized the voice as I looked up. “Charlie.”
“You left without me. Is the invitation still open?”
“Yes, of course. Please, sit down. You were so engaged with your companion, I didn’t want to interrupt.”
“That was good of you, but not necessary. It was just Sarah. She’s a flight attendant I’ve known for years. We get on together.”
“You should have invited her to join us.”
“No, that’s all right. We’d wind up talking shop and that’s the last thing I want to do.”
“Here,” I handed him the menu. “I’ve already made my selection.”
As we gave our orders to the waitress, I told her to charge it to my room. Charlie protested,
“No, Charlie, I invited you as my guest. Not another word from you, please.”
He smiled and accepted it graciously, but I believe he was genuinely surprised.
We spent the next two and a half hours trading stories about what we did for a living, where we had traveled and what our favorite this, that, and the other was. He loved flying and did most of the talking as his life was much more adventurous and interesting than mine.
As the evening drew to a close the conversation became somewhat personal. He asked if I was married.
“No, regrettably, I’m not. And you?”
“I am sorry to hear that, Charlie. Marriage can be such a blessing.”
He chuckled, “To the right person.”
“You’re young enough and wise enough to avoid that mistake again.”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. My job makes it difficult. How about you?”
“Sarah’s single. She’s a beautiful, intelligent woman. Would you like to meet her? She has a wonderful sense of humor. I think you two would hit it off.”
I shook my head and smiled. He looked at me questioningly. I considered my answer, then decided I better play it safe. I smiled, got up and extended my hand, “Charlie, it’s been very nice getting to know you. Thank you for joining me this afternoon.”
He got up and took my hand more out of reflex than intention, “I have also. Thank you for dinner.”
“I’m going to turn in. I’m pooped. You have a safe return to winter.”
He laughed, “Yeah, like I’m really looking forward to that. And likewise to you.”
“Thank you. Good night.”
I turned and walked toward the elevator in the lobby. I had to smile, thinking of the bewildered look on his face when I ignored his suggestions.
I slept like a baby that night and woke before sunrise, thinking of Charlie Davis, where he was, who he was, and how he was. After chastising myself for reacting like a juvenile, I got out of bed and began my second day of vacation.
After a full day of being absolutely feckless and loving every minute of it, I realized how exhausted I was and decided to extend my stay another day.
“We’re happy to accommodate you, Mr. Benson. Is there anything else we can do for you?”
I declined and turned away. “Excuse me, Mr. Benson.”
I turned back to the desk clerk who was looking at his computer screen.
“There’s a note here about someone inquiring about you.”
“There is?” I found it difficult to believe at first. “By whom?”
“There’s no name. Did you receive a call in your room?”
“No, I didn’t. This is very curious. What else does it say?”
“Well, according to this note, a gentleman inquired but wouldn’t give his name.”
“What did he look like?”
“It doesn’t say. I wasn’t on duty when this happened.”
“How very odd. Did you give him my room number?”
“No. It says here that we offered to call you and advise you that someone was here. He evidently declined and left. It’s our policy to withhold such information if the situation warrants it. I hope you understand.”
“Yes, of course. You did the right thing. Thank you.” I couldn’t imagine who it might be. My office knew where I was and I told a few friends where I was going, but I couldn’t imagine any of them being here and making such an inquiry. There was Captain Davis but that wasn’t very likely. He was probably back in Chicago by now.
I tried to dismiss the incident but found it difficult, seeing I was a player in the mystery. Perhaps someone I had never met saw me and wished to know more about me. That didn’t make any sense either. They could just as easily have come up to me and introduce themselves. No, something else was going on that escaped my imagination. I guessed I would have to wait and see.
The days passed quickly and before I knew it, it was time to return home to Chicago. I dawdled until the very last moment before departing the hotel. I hopefully inquired if there had been any more inquiries. There had not.
I purchased a rose at the terminal gift shop and boarded my plane. As before, I waited until the flight was on its way before I gave the rose to an attendant. There was no response, at least not the kind I was hoping for. He wasn’t captaining this flight.
The red light on my answering machine caught my attention as I entered my apartment. There were two messages from my office, one from my friend, Peter, and a fourth with no message. There were just a few seconds of silence and then a disconnect. I thought nothing of it until it happened again a few days later. My interest was somewhat peaked but faded when I decided it was probably someone trying to sell me Tupperware or, and I laughed to myself, maybe it was Ed Mc Mahon from Publishers Clearing House. The thought that it might be a heavy breather did cross my mind but I decided I wasn’t going to be that lucky. My number was listed on the national no-call list, but that obviously was not working.
Several weeks later, spring was thankfully returning. I decided a run in the park and then along the Lakefront was essential to rid my body of the winter blues. I put on running shorts and a t-shirt which were not sufficient against the temperature but I figured I’d work up a sweat and be comfortable. I ran from my apartment building on Briar Place, crossed Sheridan Road and jogged under Lake Shore Drive. Once I was on the Lakefront Trail I headed to the Oak Street Beach.
I was on my way back when I got the silly feeling that I was being watched, but not by someone who was just curious. It was more than that or, perhaps, just my over active hopeful imagination. I dismissed the thought when I ran into old friends, Karl and Russ, a married couple I had not seen since the summer before. We went to a local bistro to catch up. During the conversation, I mentioned the feeling of being watched.
“Was he tall, dark, and handsome?” Karl asked with a devilish smile.
“Probably, and unavailable. How the hell would I know?”
“We’d love to take you off of our lonesome guy list.”
“Very funny,” I smiled dolefully, “So would I. I’m getting tired of kicking around by myself.”
“You’re such a goodie-two-shoes. If you’d act like a slut once in a while you might find Mr. Right.”
“Is that how you nabbed Karl?”
“Well, I …”
“We met at a church social.”
“Oh, no. Really?”
“I spotted Russ the minute he walked in.”
“He ignored me the entire afternoon.”
“I saw you.”
“After I practically threw myself at your feet.”
“You seemed unapproachable.”
Karl laughed out loud. “That isn’t true. I tried making eye contact with him and finally gave up.”
“So, how did you get together?”
“Karl’s sister finally took matters into her hands. She cornered me in the men’s room and gave me what for.”
“Russ? You never told me that.”
“Will you two stop.” I couldn’t help but laugh, “You’re together, and that’s all that matters. Isn’t it?”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Russ laid his hand on Karl’s hand and gave him a loving look.
Then I related my encounter with Captain Davis in Florida.
“I should give Azura a call. Maybe she can conjure up someone, maybe your fly boy.”
“He’s not my flyboy, and who’s Azura?”
“Russ, don’t start with that, please.”
“Oh, why not. Who knows, she might be able to help.”
“What are you talking about?”
Karl rolled his eyes and stared at Russ.
“She’s a gal I met in New Orleans. She does voodoo stuff and has a big following.”
“Of wackos like herself,” Karl whispered.”
“No, I’m not. Karl thinks I’m crazy but I believe she can do things.”
“Please don’t tell me she makes little dolls and sticks pins in them.”
“Go ahead and laugh but don’t piss her off.”
“Maybe you better not call her. I prefer to let nature take its course.”
“Well, that doesn’t seem to be working very well.”
We laughed about my predicament. I must admit I was half tempted, just for a moment, to take him up on the suggestion until the realization of how desperate and pathetic I must look took hold. “I appreciate the thought, Russ, but my sell-by date is a ways off, I hope.”
“You’re going to die a lonely old man if something doesn’t happen, and soon.”
“Thanks, Russ, but no thanks.” We ordered brunch and continued our banter, little realizing I was moments away from an unexpected surprise.
When we were ready to leave, I grabbed the checks and announced it was my treat. I approached the counter to make payment and was somewhat taken aback by the expression on the clerk’s face. I smiled and handed her the checks and cash.
“Sir, that won’t be necessary.”
I looked at her with a friendly frown, “What?”
“Your bill has been paid.”
“It has?” I wasn’t quite sure I heard her correctly.
Russ and Karl overheard my conversation with the waitress and moved closer.
“A gentlemen approached me earlier and asked to make the payment without letting you know.”
“Oh, really?” Russ interrupted. “Is he still here?”
“No, sir. They left about 30 minutes ago.”
“They?” Karl insisted.
“A couple I’d never seen before.”
“A couple? What did they look like?” my curiosity kicked in.
“Yes, a man and woman. The man was middle-aged with salt and pepper hair, quite good looking, and a younger woman. That’s all I can remember. The man made a point of not mentioning it to you until you were ready to leave.”
“Me in particular?”
“He didn’t really say which of you.”
“Well, let me take care of the tip.”
“Oh, no. He was very generous with that also.” I looked at her, then at Russ and Karl.
“It had to be for you, Brad. Looks like I won’t need to call Azura after all.”
We laughed. I thanked the waitress, put my money into my pocket as we moved to the bistro entrance. As we exited, I looked back at the waitress who was grinning as if she had just won the Christmas turkey. She gave a little wave which I returned as I closed the door.
“You have an admirer, old man. Any idea who it is?”
“Not a clue. I can’t imagine anyone I know doing that.”
That wasn’t completely true. The description of the man’s hair made me think of Captain Davis, but it couldn’t have been him. And even if it was, why would he do such a thing? Why not just come up to the table and say hi.
We speculated who it might be until we parted company.
“We want an update if you discover who it is?”
I laughed, “Ok, I’ll let you know.”
I thought that was the end of it. The memory of the incident faded as the days passed until about three weeks later. I found a letter in my mailbox with a Chicago Post Office Box return address, but no name. It was addressed in a strong handwriting I did not recognize. I could not wait and opened it in the mail room.
It was from Charlie Davis. I could hardly believe it. He was inviting me for a trip to San Francisco and a three day stay at Yosemite National Park for hiking. He was flying out of Chicago on the First of February and taking a week of vacation after he arrived. He had made reservations at the park for a cabin. All I had to do was show up for American flight 1145 departing at 7:15 AM on February First. He wanted to know if I could get the time off to join him. He said to let him know via his e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
I was so excited, I stuffed his letter and the other mail into my shoulder bag and went to my apartment. By the time I arrived at the front door, the excitement had waned when I considered having to play it straight for 3 or 4 days with someone I really didn’t know. I called Karl and Russ for their advice.
“Brad, this sounds like Kismet is answering your prayers,” Karl was as excited as I initially was.
“But I’d have to play it straight for 4 days. And you know me with my big mouth. I’d probably embarrass myself before the first day was over.”
“Yeah, I see what you mean. It sounds like he’s paying for everything.”
“He is. I get a first class seat on the plane. He said he has privileges. He rented a cabin which means I’d have to sleep in the same room with him. It’s just too much of an obligation. I just as soon pay my own way and have some privacy.”
Russ got on the extension, “Well, I think you’re a damned fool for not going.”
“I don’t know. I only called you guys for some advice. Thanks or nothing. Goodbye.” I hung up the phone and sighed. What to do, what to do?
I stewed about it for 24 hours and finally decided to pass his offer. I wrote him a very nice e-mail thanking him for the opportunity, using the excuse I couldn’t get off of work.
Within an hour after pressing the send button I received a reply. He wasn’t about to take no for an answer. He offered alternative dates in March, April, and May.
His persistence was flattering and somewhat annoying at the same time. I replied NO again and thanked him. I hoped that would be the end of it. A week went by and I thought I was in the clear of this disappointing encounter. Turns out I wasn’t in the clear and this was not going to be the end of it.
Another email arrived from the charming Mr. Davis. This time he assumed the blame for something he had said or done during our meeting in Florida that put me off of him.
I decided to tell him the truth just to get rid of him. So, I simply wrote to him and said straight-out that I was gay and being around him for 3 or 4 days would be very awkward for me and for him. I thanked him profusely for his kindness and hoped he understood my position. I suggested he ask Sarah to accompany him, thinking she would enjoy the change.
The First of February came and went so I thankfully assumed there would be no further contact. I kind of grieved at the loss of this beautiful man as a friend but it was best to end it this way for all concerned.
A few more weeks went by when my e-mail animated puppy scampered out onto my computer screen, barked and licked the screen. I dutifully pressed the inbox button and there it was – another email from you know who. I reluctantly opened it and was prepared to grind my teeth over his persistence.
His email opened and my jaw dropped slightly as I read what must have been every difficult for him to write. The text of his e-mail was plain and to the point:
I don’t care about that. I felt a kinship with you when we met in Florida and I would like your companionship on this hiking adventure. Please reconsider. Charlie
I called Russ and Karl, “What do you think?”
“What do you mean what do we think. Go for Christ’s sake. This may be your last chance for some happiness in your drab life.”
“My life isn’t drab.”
“Yes, it is,” both of them answered at the same time.
“All right, I’ll go, but if this doesn’t work out, you’ll never hear the end of it.”
I hesitated before sending my acceptance reply, but went ahead and pressed the send button when I thought of what Russ and Karl said about my drab life. They were right.
Charlie gave me a new departure date and told me to pick up my boarding pass at the American check in counter.
“Boarding pass for Brad Benson, please.”
“Oh yes, of course. Here it is. You’re going hiking with Captain Davies in Yosemite Park.”
“Yes, I am.”
“We are so glad to hear it. That man never takes any time off. I hope you have a great time.”
“Well, thank you. I hope so too.” I smiled as I wondered how she knew so much. I was to learn later that these flight crews are a close knit group.
I purchased a rose at the terminal gift shop, boarded the plane, and settled down in my first-class seat. It was to be a five-hour flight. Once we were in the air and on our way I pressed the attendant button. A fresh-faced young woman approached. I handed her the rose. “Please give this to Captain Davis with my compliments for a safe journey.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Captain Davis is not piloting this flight.”
“There was a schedule change yesterday. Let me see what I can find out.”
“Yes, please. But give this rose to whoever has taken his place.”
“Yes, of course. Thank you. I’ll be right back.” She hurried into the galley.
I did not have a good feeling about this. That’s all I would need is to wind up in San Francisco alone. Before I had a chance to begin feeling sorry for myself, another cabin attendant came up to my side.
“I’m so sorry Mr. Benson. I was supposed to explain the change when you got on the plane. Captain Davis asked me to tell you that he will meet you in San Francisco when we landed. There was a schedule change yesterday and he took another flight.”
“Thank you, I was a little concerned.”
“We heard about the hiking trip. We are all so glad he is taking some time off. That man never stops working.”
“So, I understand. Thank you, Chandra.”
She returned to her duties in the aft cabin and I closed my eyes with high hopes for some sleep now that this crisis was solved.
I dozed on and off and was happy to hear the little tone when the seatbelt sign went on. The attendants scurried around for a few moments, then I could feel the pressure changing as we came in for a landing.
I stepped off of the plane and entered the concourse and there he was. I walked up to him, “Are you following me?”
He smiled, “Yes, I am.”
“Good, let’s go.”
I knew there would be a lot of pain-letting so I made it as easy for Charlie as I knew how. It was the confusion that weighed him down. He didn’t know who he was or what he was supposed to do. Two failed marriages caused the most consternation.
“I never had any trouble making love to the women in my life, but there was something missing which I tried unsuccessfully to deny.”
He was silent for a long while as we drove toward Yosemite Park. We traded places and I drove the remainder of the way. Without the distraction of driving, Charlie opened up a little further. It was so difficult for him I had all I could do to keep my tears in check.
“I went to a few gay bars. I was so disgusted by what I saw I never stayed long. It was then that I thought of you and decided upon this trip with the hope that you could help me. I suppose I’ve deceived you which was never my intent. I am sorry for that.”
“Charlie, you didn’t deceive me. Well, yes you did, but I saw it coming and I wanted to see you again. But I wanted you to know about my orientation. When you said you didn’t care about me being gay, I knew something was up and hoped there was some way I could help.”
We arrived in the valley, checked in and unloaded our gear into the assigned cabin.
“I’ve got jet lag and I’m hungry. Let’s go get something to eat before I faint.” We laughed and headed for the restaurant.
Charlie continued to reveal the angst which burdened him. It was evident he had no one to talk to about his sexual feelings for men or women. The strain of being in his own little prison was evident and appeared to be reaching a breaking point.
“Have you ever had sex with a man?”
He looked at me in surprise and then looked down. My heart dropped when he shook his head slightly. My empathy for him at that a moment was so strong it prompted me to go out on a limb. “Charlie, do you trust me?”
He looked at me with such vulnerability, the tears welled in my eyes.
“Yes, Brad. I do trust you.”
“Have you ever kissed a man? I mean passionately.”
“Someone tried during one of my visits to a gay bar.” A sheepish grin flooded his face. “I got thrown out of the bar for causing a fight.”
“Well, I guess …”
“I guess I won’t try to kiss you.” I think I must have smiled my most pathetic smile ever. I got the impression from the expression on his face that he had never thought of the idea – until this very moment. I stared at him, “What?”
His jaw dropped slightly and his lips parted as if he were going to speak. If there had been a sexual tension meter on the table, it would have gone from zero to 101 at that moment. To make sure it wasn’t just me, I lamely whispered, “Bad idea, right?”
It was as if an emotional tornado hit Charlie right between the eyes and crashed into his brain, swirled around and around. His eyes welled with tears which he caught with his fingers before they overflowed.
“I’m sorry, Brad. I didn’t expect that.” He began to laugh with relief. “It’s not a bad idea. It’s a good idea.”
We finished our meal and went for a long walk in the darkness of the park. He never stopped talking as all of the hurt, the loneliness, and anxiety he had been living with expelled itself. I couldn’t have been happier to be the recipient. It was late, we were alone when I took his hand and stopped him. He knew what I wanted and didn’t hesitate. He was so eager it almost knocked me out. We went back to our cabin where I experienced passion with this man I didn’t think possible. He was so strong and so intent I had to stop him several times to catch my breath.
We climbed the falls the next day. I hardly recognized Charlie, he was so different from the day before. His strength, fueled by his passion, was evident each time our eyes met. He would reach down, our hands locked around each other’s wrists and he would pull me effortlessly up and over a boulder in our path. His gaze connected with mine in such a way, it was like the first kiss all over again.
But, I didn’t kid myself. This was his first experience with another man and probably wouldn’t be his last. I was happy to have been the conduit of his release.
We climbed the falls once more the next day and then it was time to return to Chicago and reality. His persona as Captain Charlie Davis returned, as well it should. We shook hands before boarding the plane. I thanked him for an amazing few days in the place I loved most. He said nothing but looked at me in a way that words were no longer necessary.
I slept most of the way back. Two climbs up that mountain exhausted me. I was more out of shape than I realized. When the plane landed, I exited, went to my car and drove home without seeing Charlie.
As I drove home I wondered whether there would be more of Charlie Davis or was this just a glitch in my life. I hoped for the best but was prepared for the worst. There was a glimmer of hope when I opened the door of my apartment and saw the red light on my answering machine blinking. There were 5 messages. I listened attentively to each one, hoping the next one would be from Charlie. The last one was from Karl and Russ, welcoming me back with an invitation to call them. I didn’t want to talk with anyone. I just wanted to cherish the memories of the last few days before reality washed them away.
It was late when I finally turned out the light. My bed seemed so terribly empty after having slept with Charlie those three nights. I finally fell asleep visualizing the incredible sex and oneness we experienced with one another.
I could not remember ever having felt so empty and alone now that I was alone. Was it going to be like this the rest of my life?
When my doorbell began to ring I thought I was dreaming and turned over. Finally, I came awake and realized what was going on. At first, I thought it might be some kids playing a prank, but the insistence of the ringing persisted. I stumbled to the foyer and pressed the talk button, “Yes.”
“Brad, it’s Charlie. Can I come up? I never want to sleep alone again.”
I didn’t answer. I just pressed the button to open the lobby door, and stood there buck naked waiting for my life to continue.
Charlie pushed the door open and walked in, “I hope this is all right.”
He dropped his bag as I put my arms around him and our mouths connected with the same force, the same insistence, and the same passion.
“Come on, take your clothes off and stay a while.” We laughed as I helped him disrobe on our way to the bedroom. We finally got into bed, I pulled the covers up over us as we lay facing one another.
“I thought I was never going to hear from you again.”
“I lost your phone number.”
“Did you really?
“Yes, I did. I can’t imagine what happened to it.”
“Doesn’t matter. You’re here and I’ll share this bed with you as long as you want.”
We didn’t make love that night. We talked until we fell asleep in each other’s arms. When consciousness returned, the first thing I became aware of was the smell and warmth of this beautiful man lying next to me. It was so intoxicating I didn’t want to move for fear of breaking the spell. I remembered thinking of Charlie as a giant Popsicle lying next to me at the hotel in Florida and me with no licking privileges. I smiled to myself, I had licking privileges now and had every intention of using them.
When he finally stirred, I coaxed him into the shower where I washed his entire body and satisfied him in a way he did not expect. “No one has ever done that to me before.”
“Nope, you’re the first and you did an amazing job.”
“Thank you, it was my pleasure.”
We laughed as I passed out towels and we proceeded to dry each other.
I was about to make some breakfast when the phone rang. It was Russ and Karl. “Hey, you two.”
“How was your trip?”
“It was fine. I’m hungry. How about making breakfast for me?”
“Come on over.”
“I’m on my way.”
I filled Charlie in on who they were as we walked the few blocks to their place. The expression on their faces was priceless when I walked in with Charlie. We had breakfast and decided to go for a walk in the park. It was a beautiful day. Russ pulled me aside and wanted to know if he could cross me off of their lonesome guy list.
“Not so fast, Russ. It’s too early to tell.”
Charlie arranged two more trips to San Francisco with a few days of hiking at Yosemite on each trip. The last one was almost a year from our first venture. We climbed the falls and crossed the bridge for some rest before we descended to the valley. As we lay there enjoying the warmth of the Sun, each other’s company, and the magnificent view, my life suddenly came to an end when Charlie asked me to marry him. It literally took my breath away.
He looked at me and became alarmed, “Brad, you’re not breathing!”
I finally inhaled as my new life began with my acceptance of his proposal.
Charlie wanted to be married in midair. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the idea. I got Russ and Karl on board with a planned trip to West Palm Beach, Florida for a weekend.
So, on a beautiful day in May, at an altitude of 30,000 feet, somewhere between Chicago and Florida, with Karl and Russ, Chandra, and Sarah in attendance and a justice of the peace who happened to be a cousin of Russ, Charlie and I spoke our vows to one another and became husbands forever and a day. Karl handed me a rose which I presented to Charlie. He broke into a big smile when the symbol of our first meeting dawned on him.