Walking On Air

I had been visiting my parents in Luxembourg for two weeks and was on my way back home, Vancouver that is, with a stopover in Glasgow. I boarded in the very last moment, having already feared I was going to miss the flight. When I got on the plane it was filled up to one place – that’s probably the biggest disadvantage of flying with a cheap airline. The guy on the seat next to me seemed quite nice and looked Italian, so I thought it might be a good way of refreshing my rusty Italian and greeted him with “buona sera”. He looked at me, smiled and replied with a friendly “ciao”. “Posso accodarmi qui?” I asked. “Si, è ancora a disposizione.” His accent proved my supposition that he was Italian. We began talking: his name was Gian and he was on his way to visit his girlfriend who lived in Glasgow. I told him I studied there too, but left in my final year to finish my studies in Kent. We got along quite well and the approximately two hours flight elapsed quickly.

When we arrived in Glasgow, his girlfriend, a black-haired 29 years old girl with catching green eyes, already awaited him. When they locked each other in their arms and kissed I remembered the beginning of a wonderful movie I had seen long ago and was demonstrated that for once a scene wasn’t a mere invention of Hollywood, but that love actually is all around. Gian’s girl somehow looked familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why.

– Leila, this nice guy is Benji, we met on the plane – Benji, that’s Leila, my girlfriend.

He invited me to join them for a drink at a cafe nearby, where they were going to meet with Leila’s sister. I had no plans for the evening as I was only going to meet with my editor tomorrow, so I agreed. I only had hand luggage, so I didn’t bother not going to my apartment immediately.

The pub was a ten minute walk from the airport and was called Walking On Air. Leila’s sister hadn’t arrived yet, so we sat down at a table close to the window and I paid for a round. As Gian had already told me during the flight, he and Leila were from Luxembourg, but they were having a long-distance relationship as she was an assistant lecturer at the University of Glasgow and he was working for an insurance company in Luxembourg. Leila’s sister was studying art and had class till 7.30 in the evening that day, which obviously was the reason why she was late.

We had just ordered another coffee when Leila suddenly looked out of the window and wove her hand. It was however dark outside and the reflections on the glass were too high I was wondering how she could see anything, let alone recognize somebody who passes by. When the door opened I asked myself if she was as beautiful as Leila – Gian had in fact told me that she had dumped her boyfriend the week before though they had apparently planned on getting married the following summer. Yes, he was quite a talkative guy.

And then, she stood there: shoulder length blond hair, nosil piercing and more gorgeous than ever before.

I would never have expected this, nor would I have dared to anticipate it. I’d been living in Vancouver for two years then and during that time, I almost forgot her. It is a lie though, the old saying out of sight, out of mind: she had been present every single day, either by a feeling or a memory – only for a few seconds, yes, but still she was there.

First love, last love – I guess that saying admittedly has its truth. Even more if you loved someone for five years and still can’t leave the feeling behind – not that I ever wanted to. It leaves a bit of magic to your life, being reminiscent of perhaps the greatest experience of all. It helps you to see the world more colourfully and comforts you that bad times will eventually pass. It is the reason why we hope, knowing that once there was a being to whom nothing else but yourself mattered and the possibility that there is another being who’s alike out there, waiting to be found by and looking for you.

She seemed as thunderstruck as I was, which was of course hardly surprising, and remained at the door for a few seconds. Gian must have noticed that we knew each other and asked what was happening. I felt befogged and could only stutter out “Dawn”. She finally came to the table, still looking baffled. The waitress came immediately and she ordered a straight whisky, which she drank in one go. She closed her eyes for a few seconds and said nothing. I would have been shocked by her awkward manners if I hadn’t ordered a double vodka myself and drunk it in one go, too.

Leila asked us to explain, which, at that moment none of us was really capable of. Finally Dawn stumbled “Benjamin,” and the shock slowly faded. Hearing her voice again after all those years was an intense feeling and my heart just wouldn’t stop palpitating of jumpiness. It was kind of an agreeable feeling though, I hadn’t felt in such an intensive way since the peculiar feeling I had when entering her room for the first time.

Leila looked bewildered, she certainly must have begun to understand who I was. Gian however slowly but surely got nervous not knowing what was going on and suddenly shouted something like “hey guys!” but neither Dawn nor I reacted. Time was dwindling away in eternity, the place melted away in ubiquity as both they wafted over from her bleary eyes into mine.

At last I couldn’t hold back the question anymore that had been haunting me for the last years: “why did you break up with me?” So in that way, finally, Gian at the same time got an unmistakable clue about what linked Dawn and me.

She stumbled trying to give me an answer that wouldn’t hurt me, but my heart had already bled because of her, and nothing in the world she could say could possibly cause a greater agony – or at least I thought so, because what she said then destructed me: “Because I loved you.” I would have expected everything, but that answer was the strangest she could give. She asked the baffled Gian and Leila to leave us alone, and when they had left the cafe, she swallowed hard and laid her right hand on my left. With her angelic voice she asked me several times not to get upset before she had build up her courage to the point where she was ready to tell me the whole story.

“I… I got pregnant that last summer Benjamin. And when my parents… they found out and they forced me to abort it. They did never like you, you know that and… But I, I couldn’t deal with it. And you had already gone to college and I… I had just finished high school and I couldn’t… I just couldn’t tell you… So I broke up… I just wanted to escape all of that…”

I was struck all of a heap. Without having consciously decided to, I stood up, went around the table, grabbed her by the shoulders and made her stand up. It would have been the ideal scene for the camera to revolve around us and some overly dramatic music to be played in the background if it had been a Hollywood movie, but it wasn’t – though it felt as unreal as if it was.

The cafe was already empty then, the only one left was the waitress who didn’t say anything, though she certainly wanted to close. I can’t tell how we long stood there, time just didn’t matter anymore. She hugged and squeezed me and couldn’t hold her tears back anymore.

– So that is how you and mummy got back together?
– Yes Timmy, that is our story.

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  1. […] [Over a week ago I promised a new short story. Well, here you are. This is a completely reimagined version of Walking on Air which I posted about a year ago. I had rewritten it slightly for a class to get some feedback on it but my lecturer thought it were not subtil enough (and I reckon she was right). Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with just another draft, as she made me rewrite the whole thing completely and it’s a totally different story now.] […]

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