PREVIOUSLY: Part 3
The line took forever. We were exposed to the São Paulo air, which wasn’t as polluted as so many others made it out to be. Maybe it’s worse at the height of summer. She started talking again and I heard “something something something meu namorado something something.” My boyfriend. Did I hear that right? Yes, I’m sure I did. My brain and ear complex is a scientific instrument that can pick out the word “boyfriend” is about a dozen languages.
“If we don’t see each other again after the flight, make sure you email me.”
But of course I was going to wait for her after we landed. I just didn’t want to tell her that.
The flight was under two hours. I dozed in an out of a light sleep, thinking of her most of the time. When I went to the bathroom in front of the plane I glanced back and saw her hat poking up in a window seat. She seemed to be reading her workbook. It’s happening a lot recently where I think, “She’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever talked to,” and I’m not sure if that really is the truth or if my memory is getting more faulty as I age, but at that moment she had the title. Of course I was going to Argentina and who knows who I’d meet there, but to know that my little tentacles were beginning to wrap around this one made me feel… good. I like to think I don’t need validation from women, but our completely innocent two hours together was validating me more than a third of the women I’ve had sex with. I know she’s just another human being, with her own issues, insecurities, and flaws, and that somewhere there is “a guy who is tired of fucking her,” but I wanted the clean shot to be that guy myself.
The plane landed and I walked out of the boarding tunnel and then made a right turn down the hallway and then a U-turn down the escalator. I waited next to a column. I wanted to see the surprise on her face when she caught sight of me after thinking I had left.
For being only nine rows back it seemed to take forever for her to come out. I played with my phone for a bit and then looked up and saw her coming down. We made eye contact and she let out a huge smile, and I smiled back.
“You waited,” she said.
“Yup only for you.”
“So do you have someone here to pick you up?” I asked.
“No my dad was supposed to but he couldn’t. I will try to call him.”
“So I have to get my bags and check in again with another airline. TAM doesn’t go to Córdoba.”
“Do you have a lot of bags?”
“Only two but they’re insanely heavy. One is a backpack and I think it’s time to get a bag with wheels. But I feel like a strong man when I carry everything on my back. So are these all your bags?” She had one little wheeled suitcase, a plastic bag with the name of a chocolate shop I’ve seen in Rio, a small handbag, and a duffel bag.
“Yeah this is it. I was only in São Paulo for three days.”
“Mmhmm four days for me.”
“When does your flight leave?”
“In a little less than two hours.”
“So you have to check in soon.”
“Yes I guess so.” We had taken slow steps from the escalator and stopped in the middle of the baggage claim hall. Another flight had just been let out and not far off was a large crowd waiting behind the arrivals glass.
“It’s a shame that we don’t live in the same city.” I said it as earnestly as I possibly could, so she could pick up on what I was really trying to tell her.
“Yes but we’ll keep in touch.”
“Yes but… ” But you know this is it right? How long is our little email conversation gonna go for? One month if we’re lucky. When am I coming back to Porto Alegre? In two years when you’re married, with a kid? Right, we’ll keep in touch.
“Yes we’ll definitely keep in touch,” I said. “And soon you’ll write to me in English.”
“But you have to keep writing in Portuguese to practice.”
“I’ll forget everything by then, though back in the States I know of a couple Brazilian stores. I can go there to say a few words, buy some açaí pulp and guarana syrup to make my own açaí like they do in Rio. I wonder if they have queijo minas too…”
Neither of us broke eye contact. For a second it felt like she was stuck and couldn’t move. I heard the baggage belt begin turning and squeaking.
“It was really nice meeting you,” I leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.
“It’s only one kiss right?”
“Yes, one,” she said.
“But in Rio there’s two. I heard in some parts of France there’s four. That’s a bit much maybe.”
She just looked at me. I noticed my hand was gently holding onto the underside of her left arm, near her elbow. She didn’t move it away.
“Well if I visit Porto Alegre one day you’ll have to be my personal guide.”
“Of course! And if I visit Washington…”
“Well I guess I have to get my bags now.”
“Yes go ahead. Make sure you email me!”
“I will in a couple days.”
“Goodbye.” I squeezed her arm and walked away. Twenty seconds later my mind seizured with doubt and thoughts of what I could have done differently, but by the time I turned around she was gone.
Three days later I sat down to send her an email. She wrote her address in very bad handwriting and I couldn’t make out several characters. I tried a couple combinations, but they all got returned.
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