He was boarding in zone 1, I was in zone 2. I recognized the dive watch he had on, but his shaved head was under a hat. Not a baseball hat like he wore when I used to see him everyday. This one is almost a cowboy hat. He stepped onto the jetway, I waited for them to call zone 2.
When was the last time I saw him? I remember seeing him in his truck. I still had the jeep then, so it had to be at least 4 years ago. He waved, I waved. I didn't have a cell phone is on me. When I got to where I was going I called him, I had memorized his phone number. I can't remember a shopping list, my brain is 80% song lyrics and phone numbers of people I haven't talked to in years.
He was a friend. He used to come into the scuba shop, back when I owned it, to hang out. He was a dive master and an ex Marine all around badass. I used to crack up when he would end a phone call with “out” Instead of just a simple “bye.”
I was the first to board in zone 2. He had his earbuds in. “Will, hi!” I called to him as I made my way back to my seat in the last row. He blinked at me, “hey.” Crap. Does he even recognize me? I didn't want to hold up traffic. I went to the back of his plane. What's his phone number? Why can I remember that a Swedish exchange student taught me how to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” in Swedish, but I can't remember 7 digits.
The flight passed. It was crowded so I didn't want to stand in the aisle to talk to him. I read a book, played with the jigsaw puzzle app on my iPad. What was that number. I remember the last 4 numbers, but not the first 3.
The landing gear is out, the plane gently thuds to the ground and taxies to the gate. What. Is. The. Number? What is it?
I'm in the last row. He puts the hat on and leaves the plane. The people ahead of me mosey for seat to overhead compartment. What is the number?
“Man they are slow to deplane tonight. Doesn't anyone have a connection to make?”
“Mine’s not for 2 hours. I randomly spotted an old friend and I want to say hi to him, but he's off the plane”
And just like that all seven digits came to me. “I haven't seen him in years, would it be weird if I texted him?” I ask.
“You totally should,” the guy sitting next to me says. “I would.”
“Wait, does he owe you money?” The flight attendant jokes.
“Hey, it's BJ Knapp, I was on your plane to Detroit. Great to see you.” I dash off before collecting my suitcase from the bin.
I arrive in the terminal, look both ways but I don't see him. My phone on my back pocket dings.
“You too. “
“My flight is not til 8. Got time for a drink?” I write back.
I put the phone in my back pocket and keep making my way to gate a71. He's probably got a tight connection. I'll just grab some dinner and catch my flight. I just passed the ladies room, I should stop in.
When I turn around I see him walking right behind me. We hug like we just saw each other last week. We find a bar, he orders an IPA, and I get a mojito. And we're old friends catching up in an airport bar. He's still a badass ex Marine. I'm still a goofball writer still working for the man and on a business trip. “How's Todd? How are the dogs? How's the scuba gang?” He asks.
I wasn't psyched about the timing of this trip for work. But an old friend made it worth the while.
Thanks for the mojito and the smile, Will.
added on 12.07.15