After off-the-chain Pita Pit, Taj drives us to the beach. We stand on a stretch of boardwalk, watching the sunbathers and the running children on the sand below, the swimmers in the waves. It is extremely humid, and drizzling. We haven’t been to the beach all weekend, but I don’t think either of us regrets this, because it left time for other things.
“Do you see that thing out there?” Taj points. “What is that? Do you see what I’m looking at?”
“Yeah,” I answer enthusiastically, following the direction of his finger out to the horizon, where a huge, crescent shaped boat rocks gently. It has a white tower, with red rods sticking horizontally out of it. The bars along the side of the craft look ragged and craggy, as though supporting clotheslines with someone’s wash hung out and flapping in the wind. Involuntarily I think of immigrants coming by boat to America, or to Israel.
“I’ll bet it has something to do with that,” Taj says, pointing to a rusty pipe, about the same diameter as a wheel on my car, running up out of the waves and extending perpendicularly onto the beach.
“Hmm, yeah,” I say, thinking he must be right because he always is, but I don’t really know what he’s talking about. A weird boat and a huge pipe? Well, they are both strange. My head is foggy. I look farther out to the Atlantic again. “Hey, there’s another one, exactly like it!”
“Another boat like that. I can see the shadow of it, on the horizon. It has exactly the same shape.”
“Are you looking at what I’m looking at?” Taj asks. He sounds a touch impatient. “That black thing, with the yellow stripe.”
“Oh.” A big cylinder, made perhaps of vinyl, undulates with the waves about a third of the way to the horizon. Now it makes sense. Is someone pumping the ocean? “Oh, I see,” I say dumbly.
This morning, gallantly, Taj called the front desk as I directed him to ask for a late check-out of 1:00. It was granted. So after our shower, he tells me it’s 12:30, meaning we still have time for something before finishing to pack and leaving for the airport.
We are practically to the terminal when I suddenly say, “You’re coming in with me, right?”
“Um, I wasn’t thinking about it. I have to find parking. Oh, there it is.” He drives to the left toward the garage. Nervousness rises in my lungs and throat. I try not to say anything but know I must. He finds a spot and determines the path to the terminal door: over a bridge spanning the drop-off road below.
“Did you not want to come in with me?” I quaver.
“I was ready to drop you off and go,” he says.
“Wow.” The wheels of my mini-suitcase seem to scrape unnaturally loud against the cement of the walkway. I keep my head down.
“Liz. I have a two-hour ride home. And you don’t really have time. When I go to the airport, I get in there and go to my flight and that’s it. Your flight’s at three o’clock.”
“Three thirty-five,” I correct him. “I thought we could have a coffee or something. You know I like you to come in with me. It’s not even two.”
“OK, so I’m coming in with you.” The temperature drops about thirty degrees when we enter the building. We walk past a guy singing “I Believe I Can Fly” with a karaoke machine. He’s wearing a horrible patchwork vest, a black shirt and sunglasses, and he’s singing to three or four people seated in a dark green wooden rocking chairs. The other rockers are empty. “Starbucks?” Taj says.
We sit down with his double espresso and my tea. “I’m so embarrassed now I asked you to come in,” I persist.
“Well, I’m here so don’t dwell on it. I mean, I have a headache and I really want to go home and lie down.”
“I’m sorry, baby. I guess I just see it differently. I always want to spend as much time with you as I can. We have so little time together.” I’m trying hard not to cry. “But I didn’t know you didn’t feel well.”
“It’s OK.” I try to forget it, ask him questions about the wedding he’s supposed to go to next week. Apparently, he’d tried like hell to get his friend to let him bring me as his date, but this request was refused. “I never get to bring a date,” Taj explains. “Not even to my cousin’s wedding. I don’t know why.”
So many things seem to come between us. Yet we’re still together, even though maybe he’s annoyed with me right now, even though maybe I wish he could be a little more sensitive sometimes.
As human beings we come as a package. That’s what people tell me anyway, in particular Willow. If you’re the type of guy who knows how to kill a wild boar when you’re in the woods and hungry, maybe you do have to be specifically asked to come into the airport with your gf. Maybe being in a relationship means honoring all the different parts of someone that make them whole, the ones that are easy for me and the ones that are not. It all comes down to love.
At Starbucks, Taj suggests visiting Willow and her guy in Asheville on Labor Day weekend. This delights me. “She’ll be ecstatic,” I say, drinking the last of my tea. “OK baby, I’ll let you go. Where’s my gate?”
“That way,” he says, pointing; the security line is practically on top of us. Mr. Karaoke is singing “On The Wings of Love” as Taj walks me to it. “I’ll probably be driving through the woods when you get to Charlotte, but call me when you are about to take off from there.”
He hugs me tight, kisses me sweetly. “Bye, baby.”