The airport was deserted, except for the bar. Everyone got there hours early, only to discover that even the most earnest security official can only delay you for so long. I sat down, and ordered a big beer. “You can have a shot with that for an extra buck,” the bartender informed me. I looked over the booze and figured a shot of Chivas was worth almost a buck, and had that tacked on. I was sitting, contemplating which to drink first, when a woman pulled up one barstool down and ordered a Sam Adams, large. Moments later she had also ordered a Chivas, for the same reason I had.
We started talking. We both feared what was going to come next. We both thought that Bush was stupid (“lightweight” was the word I used), and that a terrorist attack was just what his administration had been hoping for.
Physically, she was striking. She had a great butt, piercing eyes, and her lower face was a wreck. She’d had some disease as a child that ate her jaw and (if hyperbolic memory has not overtaken me) almost her life. She had written a book about it, Anatomy of a Face. If memory serves. We’d had another double-round by then. She was on the NPR rolodex under self-esteem, and was coming back from an interview.
She held her hand over her face much of the time. I guess even if you’re synonymous with self-esteem you get tired of people staring. “I’m a writer,” she said. I wanted to say I was a writer, too, but it sounded pretty me-too-istic. Probably I mentioned it eventually. I still had a day job, though.
I wonder, all these years later, if she remembers the guy in the bar at the Cincinnati airport who was checking out her ass when he didn’t think she was looking, who occasionally had the courage to look into her terrifying eyes, and most of all had a great conversation about everything under the sun while a cloud hung over our nation. Maybe it was the time, maybe it was the setting, maybe it was my own slower disaster, but I will never forget her.